Feb. 12, 2014

This was a rather light week on my pull list.  Only a couple things came out and even fewer of merit.  Obviously Batman is one of my top monthly picks right alongside Superman/Wonder Woman. Nightwing, Green Lantern Corps, and Superboy have been quality titles.  Coffin Hill is hanging by the thinnest of threads, falling short of the other titles in Vertigo’s new lineup of titles.  However, The Royals comes out this week, also from the Vertigo Comics imprint, presenting a very intriguing concept.  Here’s how they stacked up:

  • Batman #28 has writer Scott Snyder taking yet another break from the current storytelling to tell a tangent story that introduces his Batman Eternal series which hits stores in April.  While the unexpected hiatus is annoying after last issue’s tense cliffhanger, the story is intriguing and whets the readers appetite for what to expect from this weekly title, out in two months.  Beginning with Harper Row on the mean streets of Gotham after an imposed curfew, she is caught by the cops and taken to a very swanky night club.  From here Scott Snyder introduces the atmosphere Gotham is living under.  Some mystery condition has beset Gotham, viral or other, that necessitates a cure which the owner of this club has sole access to.  The club’s owner and kingpin of the Gotham crime underground is another intriguing twist that maintains Snyder’s reputation as one of the emerging Batman writers of the new millennium.  For me personally, there were two elements of the plot that excited me and put my frustration at not getting closure from last issue’s cliffhanger to bed.  The first one comes in the form of Harper Row.  Harper was introduced by Snyder early on in the rebooted Batman title and then slowly brought to the forefront.  She is an incredible, alternative young woman that is intelligent, quick witted, and tough as nails.  It was really looking like she was going to be the new Robin following the heartrending departure of Damian Wayne.  This is not the case, and while Batman said he wouldn’t allow her into the fold, she does enter the fold in a Robin-esque role, but not under the nom-de-guerre of Batman’s Boy Wonder legacy, of which two girls were once a part.  That actually works well for me, because Harper is very different from the other kid sidekicks Batman’s worked with.  She is an alternative teen with dyed hair, a septum piercing, and a very distinct style. For all their differences in social class, background, and motivations, Dick, Jason, Tim, Damian, and Barbara all seemed to be different shades of conventionality. Harper is a bird of a different color, both figuratively and nominally with the heroic identity she dons in this issue.  What I think really hits for me with Harper is that vast majority of young women I know that are hardcore into the Batman titles are remarkably similar to Harper, not really mirroring Barbara or any of the other female members of the Bat Family. Harper is just really cool and a perfect fit in the re-imagining of the Batman mythos.  Apropos the mentioning of female members of the Bat Family and batgirls, the second element of Batman #28 that got me giddy was the introduction of Stephanie Brown, current Spoiler and “once and future” Batgirl, to the New DCU.   Dustin Nguyen provides art on the book and does a great job capturing the darkly elegant underworld of the criminal elite in this issue.  It’s like a blast from the past back to his days on Batman: Streets of Gotham.  Overall a really great issue that has me primed for Batman Eternal.
    Enter Bluebird . . .

    Enter Bluebird . . .

     

  • Superman/Wonder Woman #5 continues the title in the vein with which it began last October.  Superman and Wonder Woman are very similar, but also very different.  The title has been very Super-centric, having mostly dealt with Supes and his pantheon of characters, i.e. Doomsday, Cat Grant, and Zod and Faora.  While there was a shirt interlude of Superman going toe-to-toe with Wonder Woman’s dickish older brother, Apollo, her world has been in the background for most of the previous four issues.  In this we see her visit Themyscira to “speak” with her mother and sisters Amazons whom the gods turned to stone.  She looks to them for counsel considering her attempt to reconcile the differences between her worldview and Superman’s.  It’s really fascinating, because if you look at each from the other’s perspective you see diametric differences that almost cast the other in a questionable light.  Wonder Woman comes from a proud race that exalt their strength and extraordinary qualities.  Clark comes from a humble Midwestern upbringing that espoused moderation and humility.  Seeing eye-to-eye is a struggle that they both wrestle with and Wonder Woman’s journey to do so is very honest in this issue, exposing her inner virtues as well as some not so flattering prejudices.  However, while these musings go on, Superman is fending off General Zod and his recently emancipated lover, Faora, whom Zod pulled from the Phantom Zone at the end of last month’s issue.  Once he is rejoined by Wonder Woman, you get a “mirror darkly” collision of two couples, one altruistic and noble and the other sinister and brutal.  That is not the only difference, however, as Superman and Wonder Woman are not well suited to fighting side by side, but Zod and Faora are as one and fight like linked appendages of a single body and mind.  Working as they are it becomes clear that Superman and Wonder Woman need to regroup.  The writing and art on this book are superb and at the top tier of any books being put out by any comic company.  Charles Soule is amazing and Tony Daniel’s artwork is some of the best being produced.  This title is well worth the cover price for anyone that like Superman, Wonder Woman, or good character driven comics.SupermanWonderWoman5
  • Nightwing #28 is a beginning of the end for this title.  With only two more issues before its conclusion writer Kyle Higgins is starting to wrap up the final notes of his narrative of Dick Grayson’s journey as Nightwing.  Tony Zucco, his parent’s murderer, is finally in prison and Dick concludes his associations with Sonia Branch, Zucco’s daughter and ambiguous love interest to Dick.  The parting is bittersweet, because while Sonia is a high power businesswoman who isn’t always straightforward, she is a good woman who has always looked out for Dick and I think genuinely cared about him.  With Nightwing’s revealing to the world that Zucco was alive and part of a corrupt mayoral administration in Chicago Sonia was let go of her job as a bank executive, owing to the bad press.  These developments leave Dick in a state of ennui that quickly transitions with the sudden murder of a couple that live in his building.  The couple’s daughter, Jen, had stumbled across Nightwing’s paraphernalia in Dick’s room and discovered his identity.  After her parent’s death she asks Dick to help and tells him she knows he’s Nightwing.  He tries to pretend that she is imagining things, with disastrous results.  The dynamic become almost the same as his when his parents were murdered and he tried to get Batman to help him.  However, with the imminent cancellation of the title it’s not likely this relationship will reciprocate his with Bruce Wayne/Batman.  Kyle Higgins has been on this title since the first issue and terminates with next month’s #29 issue. It’s a shame that he wasn’t able to make it through all 30 issues of the regular series, but unfortunately that is how the cookie crumbles.  His run has been solid, character-driven, and a keen, thoughtful look into the life of Dick Grayson.  His excellent writing has kept me reading the title, despite Dick being the the most “vanilla” Robin in my opinion.  Higgins made me care, and for those that love Dick I can only imagine how great this series has been.  It is uncertain what the future holds for Nightwing, but for two more months we’ve got him.  Here’s hoping they are a good two months. 
  • Green Lantern Corps #28 begins an arc entitled “The Hunt for Von Daggle.”  With the larger event of the Durlan crusade against the Green Lantern Corps looming large over the GL family of books, locating the person of Von Daggle becomes a key front in the supremacy of that  conflict.  Daggle is a Durlan that broke from the Ancient’s control and became a member of the Green Lantern Corps years prior.  Now in deep cover and gone to ground after the fall of the Guardians, he is a person whose loyalty could turn the tides of war in favor of those with whom he chooses to align himself.  Obviously the Durlans are not his favorite people to begin with, and though he would be welcomed back with open arms should he choose to return, why would he?  Conversely, the Guardians (rot in Hell) were equally awful and exploitative, leading him to break ties with the Corps after the fall of central authority.  Robert Venditti and Van Jensen have been working closely to tie the two core books of the Green Lantern line close together and the universal landscape they paint is quite troubling, in the best way possible.  The Corps is facing a MESS! The Durlans have blindsided them with devastating blows.  They stuck deep at the heart of the Corps’ sense of security, blowing up their central command center on their new homeworld, Mogo, and vastly, striking numerous Corps chapterhouses throughout the 3600 sectors.  Even more devastating, a Durlan impersonating Hal Jordan revealed to the Universe that the rings the various Lanterns wear drain the universal reservoir of  light and that the Green Lanterns will not cease to use their rings, but stop anyone else from draining that same energy they are squandering.  Their plan is genius and it leaves the Green Lanterns with both feet knocked out from underneath them.  These devastating blows may have been a death stroke, but for two serendipitous developments: 1) the turning of the Corps worst enemies against their Durlan benefactors in favor of the Green Lanterns, and 2) the existence of Von Daggle, who could tell them all they need to know about taking the fight to the Durlans.  Jensen and Venditti have made the Green Lantern books once again a family of titles worth reading.GreenLanternCorps28
  • Coffin Hill #5 is a series which I want to get behind.  Lord knows Inaki Miranda’s art is awesome.  The plot in a hypothetical way is very good.  I mean if I were to make a rough synopsis of what is going on currently in the title, the backstory, and the general concept it sounds great.  I think Caitlin Kittredge is just having difficulty making it come off.  Eve Coffin is a hard protagonist to relate to, because Kittredge has given us little in the way of understanding her.  She was an angsty teenager who was raised in affluence as part of the venerable Coffin family of Coffin Hill, apparently descended from a fable witch of “Coffin Hill.”  Her and her friends cast a spell in the woods in 2003, but apart from her waking up afterward and finding her one friend naked and covered in blood and the other completely MIA, we don’t know anything about what happened.  She became a cop in Boston, got shot by someone who Kittredge heavily infers has a history with Eve.  Do we know that history?  Not at all.  Whenever there is something that could possibly shed light on who Eve Coffin is or why we should cut her slack for her annoyingly angsty demeanor, Kittredge pulls the “dog treat” away to tease us.  Eve’s surviving friend, Melanie, has woken from her decade long coma, but fallen victim to a demonic possession.  This is an interesting, though slow moving development.  What is lacking is something for the reader to latch onto.  Perhaps all these story elements are best held off until a later date, but again, if you withhold substantial bits of exposition from your readers like the proverbial dog treat they will eventually bite your hand or just lose interest and wander off.  I can’t say that I can strongly recommend this title to anyone.  Right now it is horrendously plotted and shoddily written.
  • The Royals: Masters of War #1 launches yet another groundbreaking Vertigo miniseries.  The Royals: Masters of War begins in 1940 during the height of the Blitz.  Britain’s royal family live opulently behind the walls of their palace while the rest of the country endures of the horrors of the the war with Germany.  However, in this world, due to divine right and purity of blood, the royal families of the world have superpowers.  Writer Rob Williams creates a very intriguing alternate reality with The Royals that hones old superstition and traditionalism into compelling storycraft.  In the history of his series, the French and Russian Revolutions, as well as other depositions occurred specifically because the powered Royals had forgotten their place and lorded their powers over the unpowered masses.  The current king of England was born without
    The Old Order

    The Old Order

    powers and spread the rumor that his three children were born without them as well.  They were not, which sets the stage for our story during Britain’s critical moment in WWII.  Royals DO NOT participate in warfare.  This is a modern gentleman’s agreement that is honored, regardless of whether said royal has powers of not.  King Albert is weak, his eldest son and heir to the throne, Prince Arthur, is a debauch wastrel, with a mean streak when he has imbibed.  The king’s twins and youngest children, Prince Henry and Princess Rose, are raised with their heads in the clouds and only small whisperings of the conflict at large.  Deciding to venture outside the walls of the Palace both witness the full horrors of the German bombing of their countrymen.  For Henry it is far too much to bear and he clandestinely enters the war, downing scores of planes with his bare hands.  With this GIANT breach of international etiquette the floodgates are opened for the remaining Royals to enter the fray. The artwork by Simon Coleby is very somber and robust, almost seeming like Edwardian paintings, which adds a good deal of ambiance to the title.  Rob Williams’ writing is austere and candid, paying the respect to the British Crown one would expect, but the honesty of the characters that live under it.  Just a fantastic beginning to a very promising new series from Vertigo.

    The New Order

    The New Order


A light week, but a very decent batch of excellent comics.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Batman #28: Drawn by Dustin Nguyen, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Derek Fridolfs.

Superman/Wonder Woman  #5: Drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by Sandu Florea & BATT.

Green Lantern Corps #28: Art by Bernard Chang, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.

Royals: Masters of War #1: Art by Simon Coleby, Colored by JD Mettler.

Oct. 30, 2013

With October being a five Wednesday month, this last week promises some incredible Annuals from DC, and that is NOT lip service.  Action Comics Annual #2 has been teased at with ridiculous shock endings to Superman #0 and Supergirl #0, put out over a year ago and left to simmer in reader’s minds.  Green Lantern Annual #2 promised to changed everything we know about Green Lantern books and with the past three months of developments that is not an exaggeration.  Nightwing Annual #1 delves into the complicated history of Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon, which is always awesome.  Neil Gaiman puts out the first issue of a “lost” Sandman story.  Andy Kubert draws and writes a comic centering around Damian Wayne.  The promise of quality storytelling is at an all-time high.

  • Action Comics Annual #2 follows up on the end of “Psi-War” as the Man of Steel is pulled from the aftermath of the psychic fallout in Metropolis to an even more dire threat facing the omniverse at large.  Looking upon all realities and infinite universes, Superman sees waves of chronal energy ripping through all of existence extinguishing stars and the countless civilizations they fostered or were destined to foster.  Upon witnessing this, Superman is brought together with his cousin, Supergirl, and the boy partially cloned from his genetics, Superboy.  At this point the mysterious power that ripped the three Kryptonians from their respective missions reveals itself: The Oracle.  Last seen in the “H’el on Earth” plotline where our solar system was going to be rendered into raw energy to turn back the hands of time and save Krypton from its fate.  This meant the extinction of a race and Oracle came to witness it, but did not intervene.  He has witnessed the death of countless civilizations and watched wordlessly. But with the events of the Villains Month H’el issue we not only saw the origin of H’el, but also that his mission to go back in time before the death of Krypton succeeded.  Therein lies the problem.  With the survival of Krypton the rest of the omniverse is imperiled to the point that the Oracle, for the first time ever, intervenes and actively combats the forces that be.  He sends the two refugee Kryptonians and cloned “abomination” (Superboy) back to their homeworld to show them the true horror of H’el’s efforts.  H’el wants to save Krypton and to rule it.  Infused with seemingly infinite amounts of chronal energy that allowed him to go back time and time again after numerous failed attempts at saving Krypton, until one iteration of Jor-El (his mentor and “father”) in his infinite genius finds a way to do the impossible.  H’el’s attempts contradict the laws of temporal stasis and causality, barring his success all those times before. With Jor-El’s help the survival of Krypton shatters the very fabric of time-space and threatens all of existence.  And what’s more, the Krypton he saves becomes a shell of its former glory and a slave colony of proud Kryptonians heeled at his feet.  In this climate, one of Krypton’s worst becomes their only hope at righting the timestream and saving the omniverse.  Faora, second in command to the great General Zod finds herself the right hand of the Oracle, serving as his
    Faora.

    Faora.

    mouthpiece.  With her guidance, Supergirl is sent to Krypton’s distant past to cull his incursion during the Clone Wars.  Superman and Superboy are sent to the homes of the brothers El, Jor-El and Zor-El, a week before the death of Krypton. Jor-El and Kara (Supergirl) are key in those final moments and the next generation of El men are dispatched to ensure they fulfill their roles in the correct path that Krypton was meant to take.  This includes two very polarizing events.  Kon-El (Superboy) meets a younger Kara who immediately treats him as a friend, when in their past interactions (which in this case would be the future), she did her best to kill him for being a clone and an abomination by Kryptonian standards.  Kal-El (Superman) is transported to his father’s lab, where he is greeted by his mother, Lara Lor-Van, who immediately makes short work of beating him to pulp, thinking him an intruder.  Warmly embraced by a girl who had mindlessly sought one’s death, and mercilessly beaten down by the woman who gave the other life and selfless sent him to the stars for survival, Superboy and Superman define irony in their meeting of the women of House El.  With these events chronicled, Scott Lobdell firmly sets the hook on what promises to be a brutally ambitious crossover event of the Super-books in the month of November.  Since he introduced H’el this past year, the rogue Kryptonian has become an instantly iconic character, embodying all the negative aspects of a dying race and serving as a brilliant foil for Superman and Supergirl.  In many ways he is also a dark reflection of Superboy, who is himself apart from fellow Kryptonians in the genetic altering that birthed him.  H’el, while not a clone, we now know isn’t a natural Kryptonian, and bears the horrifying visage not because of his escape from Krpyton but rather from being born accidentally from genetic material sent into space and bombarded with cosmic energies.  Like Kon-El, his powers will always be different from those of his fellow Kryptonians and his mind a battlefield of constant rage.  Providing art on this issue is regular Superman artist and oft time Lobdell collaborator, Kenneth Rocafort, as well as Dan Jurgens, Lobdell’s predecessor in writing Superman and the artist who rendered Lobdell’s H’el issue in September during Villain’s month.  Across the board, this issue hits all the right notes and fulfills a promise made in September of 2012 with the appearance of Superman and Superboy in Superman #0 and Supergirl #0.  Lobdell looks to deliver on that promise with interest.

    Supermom Lara Lor-Van.

    Supermom Lara Lor-Van.

  • Green Lantern Annual #2 is a monumental installment in the ongoing Green Lantern mythos.  After the defeat of the First Lantern and the downfall of the Guardians of the Universe, the Green Lantern Corps faces an even greater threat in the form of a cyclopean figure known as Relic.  The sole survivor of the universe that existed before the Big Bang and the creation of our universe, Relic witnessed the death of his reality and awoke just before the death of another.  The cause of this cataclysm was the same both time: Light-wielders.  In our universe they are ringslinging Lanterns.  In Relic’s time they were staff wielding “Lightsmiths.”  Relic realized too late that the light of the emotional spectrum which Lanterns and Lightsmiths utilize was a finite resource within each universe and the gratuitous use of that light moves the doomsday clock closer to the hour of oblivion.  The Lightsmiths of the previous universe dismissed Relic’s research, so this time around he foregoes talk and viciously attacks the “lightsmiths” of our universe to save their reality, over their dead bodies if necessary.  What’s worse, the various entities of the emotional spectrum ally themselves with Relic to help realize his plan to refill the universal reservoir at the “Source.”  Writer Robert Venditti re-introduces the Source Wall into the New DCU, resurrecting the wall that Jack Kirby created in his Fourth World books which demarcates the edge of the universe, composed of the calcified remains of those that try to escape its bounds.  What follows in this issue as the surviving Lanterns of four corps come to blows with Relic for one last ditch battle truly changes everything that we had known about the Green Lantern books for the past eight years.  Keystone friendships come to an end, loyalties are tested, and deals are struck that alter the dynamics that have driven this comic for decades.  What Venditti has accomplished with this five part “Lights Out” crossover arc is truly inspired and well thought out, providing entertaining, innovative storylines, but also prescient social commentary.  Relic’s findings about impending climate and energy collapse, dismissed by the powers that be, bears a striking resemblance to global warming and the current state of fossil fuel depletion.  As our best scientists currently discover more about global warming or the mathematics about the consumption of oil and coal versus the remaining stores the shortsighted in power try to silence them so the cogs of the status quo aren’t halted.  Both sides of the issue and the rationale of each are portrayed equally and fairly by Venditti as he examines it through the lens of intergalactic whimsy.  Sean Chen provides exquisite art that brings the finale of this cosmic odyssey to a poignant close, matching the art of Billy Tan quite well.  Overall, if you are Green Lantern fan, this annual is a must read, regardless of your thoughts on the direction the Green Lantern titles are taking.

    The Power of Life.

    The Power of Life.

  • Aquaman Annual #1 resurrects the work of Geoff Johns’ from his “Others” arc, but this time under the pen of John Ostrander.  The Others were a group of gifted individuals that Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman, joined after accepting his Atlantean heritage and becoming king of Atlantis.  To each of his teammates he gifted a different relic of ancient Atlantis.  He kept the trident, but gave the others to the Others.  It is precisely this fact that gives conflict to the issue’s plotline.  The Operative, Joshua Cole, is given his fallen teammate Vostok’s helmet for safekeeping because his mobile headquarters aboard an aircraft allows the most security.  However, that doesn’t stop it from being absconded with by literal flying monkeys dispatched by an equally literal wicked witch.  Along with the the monkeys come hoards of magically altered sea life, prompting the appearance of Aquaman.  The danger of one of the powerful talismans of Atlantis falling into the wrong hands brings the surviving members of the Others together once again, with honorary members, Sky and the Operative’s grandson, Aaron.  Once they come together the trail leads them to Morgan Le Faye, last seen in the series Demon Knights.  After the fall of Camelot and the various kingdoms that followed little has been told about what happened to Morgan.  Now we get to see how she’s holding up in the present.  In Arthurian myth, Morgana was always a seductive figure that corrupted through her feminine wiles, magic, or power.  In the present era, she puts the Others to the test, finding some to be wanting.  Ostrander writes a fantastic annual that feeds off of the burgeoning mythology of not only the Aquaman series, but also Demon Knights, building upon that foundation new levels to each.  His characterization of Johns’ characters feels very authentic and cuts deep to the core of who they are.  The pencils of Netho Diaz and Geraldo Borges are similar to the pencils of Ivan Reis, original series artist, bringing further authenticity.
  • Nightwing Annual #1, written by Nightwing scribe Kyle Higgins deals with a bevy of complex issues and characters.  Concerning his native topic of Dick Grayson’s life, Nightwing is transitioning into a new phase of his life.  So much of his past has been tied to Gotham and Batman’s legacy.  With the fallout of “Death of the Family” he has been forced to break from all that he has known since he took up with Batman after the death of his parents and forge his own path.  Bruce and his acolytes have become his family in lieu of the parents he lost and the family he once had in Haly’s circus.  Higgins’ run began with him inheriting Haly’s and reestablishing that bond with his first family.  In one fell swoop, the Joker took both the circus and his ability to trust Batman away.  So literally, he is cut off from everything he has ever known and is venturing into uncharted territory.  Higgins also picks up Barbara Gordon, aka Batgirl, at an equally low and uncertain time in her life.  Barbara is the eldest child of legendary Gotham police commissioner James Gordon and the big sister of sociopathic serial killer, James Gordon Jr.  Recently, when her little brother found his way into her life he set about terrorizing her and their mother to the point of Barbara having no choice but to “put him down.”  The lattermost moment witnessed by her father, which put Batgirl on the top of Commissioner Gordon’s most wanted list.  Hunted by her father in her masked identity and haunted by her actions in her civilian identity, Barbara has forsaken her all-consuming life as Batgirl and tried to figure out who Barbara Gordon actually is.  In the fallout of two lives crumbling, they look to what fragments of their pasts remain for comfort.  One of the hallmark points of both characters’ geneses in masked crime-fighting was a brief teen romance.  Even before the New DCU, back when Barbara was still in the wheelchair, there was a “will they/won’t they” repartee betwixt the two bat-family members.  They’d come close only for fate to pull them apart again.  Higgins picks that up as the two twenty-something vigilantes attempt to save an imperiled actress in a similar situation to their own.  The parallels between their charge’s rocky romantic past and their own draws them closer and closer toward finally realizing what is right in front of them.  Higgins masterfully tells this story of two broken souls, while re-introducing readers to the classic Batman villain, Firefly, all the while layering plot points and metaphor through the narrative.  Helping him in art are Jason Masters, Daniel Sampere, and Vincente Cifuentes, all of whom have done time on the Bat-books and proven their chops depicting Gotham’s cast of characters.  Overall, Higgins hasn’t lost his touch one iota as a writer of Nightwing and those closest to him.

    Young Love.

    Young Love.

  • Teen Titans Annual #2 finds Red Robin, Superboy, and Wonder Girl stabilized in their madcap roller-coaster ride through time, landing twenty years in a seemingly post-apocalyptic future.  The Justice League has fallen.  Batman has fallen.  All that remains is Beast Boy, Rose Wilson, and a ragtag group of meta-teens.  Through this annual, current Teen Titans writer and former Superboy writer Scott Lobdell realizes the near future of the DC Universe.  Even after he left the Superboy title, he came back for the 19th issue, revealing the human heart of the 25th century monster named Harvest and the one thing he loved above all else: his son, Jonathan Kent . . . the first Superboy.  Jonathan comes back in this issue and clone (Kon-El)  finally meets his original (Jonathan).  From issue #1 of Superboy, the boy Supergirl would name Kon-El has been a living weapon molded to cull super-powered individuals.  Trained and honed into a blunt object, a part of him relishes the role, but another part yearns to be free and experience friendship.  The better angels in his soul are what make him Kon.  The part of him that takes pleasure in the sadism he does is the memetic legacy of Jonathan from whom he was cloned.  At the point in the future when this annual takes place, Jonathan has come out of nowhere and nearly eradicated all the meta-humans.  He and Superboy do battle with Superboy actually coming out on top, proving that sometimes originals can be improved upon.  Inheriting Jonathan’s lack of mercy he attempts to coup-de-grace the psychotic super-teen, but as seen in the Action Comics Annual, is drawn from that point in time-space by the Oracle to aid Superman and Supergirl in stopping H’el’s assault on the omniverse.  No rest for Superboy.  In the meantime, Beast Boy councils Red Robin about this future and how it can be avoided and then explains that all the information and preparations he has given them were at Red Robin’s own behest after the three Titans return from this jaunt to the future to prepare themselves to combat this impending doom.  Seems like a time paradox to me, but I suppose with comics you have to check your disbelief at the door.  At the same time Wonder Girl stumbles upon a scrambled holographic record of Red Robin talking about the death of their team and a traitor among their number.  But the most troubling development is that the dying Jonathan is saved by Beast Boy, dressed in Superboy’s costume, and sent back knowingly with the Teen Titans to the past.  A real Hail Mary, but clearly Beast Boy knows what he’s doing since a pysched out Jonathan in the past would endanger his own existence in this future were his intentions untoward.  However, that being the case, it is highly likely that Lobdell is going to have Kon killed in “Return of Krypton” considering that he’s placed a “fake” Superboy among the Titan’s number.  Scott Lobdell has been rocking every DC book he’s touched and his treatment of both this annual and the Action Comics annual has been nothing short of stellar.

    No Mercy for the Merciless.

    No Mercy for the Merciless.

  • Swamp Thing Annual #2 provides a universe hashing interlude between the gauntlet laid down by the Parliament of Trees to decide who should be Avatar of the Green and the actual fight.  Alec Holland is the chosen avatar, but the up-and-coming Seeder has the gumption to challenge that ascendancy.  Writer Charles Soule takes this annual and uses it not only as a way of showing the preparation that Alec has to fight this battle, but also to morph the Swamp Thing mythos into something that is his own.  Original writer Scott Snyder wrote Holland as a prophesied warrior king of the Green.  A messianic figure.  It worked wonders for his run, making it legendary and an epic read.  However, it also left whoever took over the series painted into a corner.  Here Holland is told that he isn’t actually that special and he was just told that by the Parliament to make him believe in himself enough to defeat Anton Arcane and his Rotworld.  Like most political arenas, avatars curry favor and disdain with various members.  When an avatar is retired they join the Parliament.  Holland is championed by a Swamp Thing that looks like a 17th century British gentleman, going by the name “Wolf.”  Wolf shows Alec the ropes and attempts to give him the lay of the political landscape.  He also arranges for him to speak with a very dangerous former Swamp Thing named the “Lady Weed.”  She was challenged for her status as Avatar and she prevailed, showing the depth of her cunning and ruthlessness.  She prevailed through stone-cold brutality and to drive home the point, she brought about the Great Potato Famine in Ireland, the country of origin to her slain rival.  A Swamp Thing must be ruthless if they are to remain the Avatar.  This blow to Alec hits hard, because his humanity has been something he has desperately attempted to hold onto, despite the inhuman thoughts that the Parliament whisper in his mind constantly.  The Wolf sends him to talk to one last person.  The Swamp Thing that the Parliament created artificially to stand in for him, thinking it WAS him.  This Swamp Thing was a cruel joke that despite not being human found humanity and that is what he imparts to Holland. His message to Alec is simple: “If you are asked to do something that will change you in a way you do not wish to be changed, that will compromise the person you believe yourself to be . . . say no.”  The messages given by Weed and the blue Swamp thing are polar opposites and seemingly disharmonious to the goals that the Wolf would have Alec achieve, since he has stock in the retention Alec as Swamp Thing, but what the Wolf has done is give Alec a choice.  He can do as the Green would have him and be the ruthless killer that Lady Weed was to retain her title or he can be the Avatar he wants to be just like the avatars seen at the beginning of this annual did once upon a time.  Charles Soule has taken this issue in hand and made it his own, following in the tradition of Snyder, but telling a story in his own tenor.  Javier Pina and regular series artist Kano provide lush art and incredible visuals to enliven the brilliant scripting of Soule.  This is very much a talking issue and very light on action, but for Swamp Thing faithfuls it is well worth the read. SwampThingAnnual#2
  • Damian: Son of Batman #1 presents an unofficial Elseworld style story about one of the most captivating and controversial characters to come to the Bat-books in the past decade: Damian Wayne.  The sociopathic son of Batman and Talia Al-Ghul, Damian cuts a very rough figure, but beneath the harsh, abrasive exterior beats a human heart that wants the same things his father did and strives toward those goal with equal vigor.  Damian first entered comics in the version we know in 2005 with Batman #647, written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Andy Kubert.  This past year, after a whirlwind tour of writing four series showcasing the characters of Batman and Damian, Grant Morrison killed off the young Wayne.  This series, Damian: Son of Batman, allows Damian’s co-creator Andy Kubert the opportunity to tell Damian’s story in his own way.  In it Batman is immediately killed at the beginning, blown up investigating a crime that seemingly was committed by the Joker.  In the aftermath, Damian is forced to pick up the pieces.  By this time he has grown into a young man, still occupying the role of Robin.  When he goes out to seek justice for his father’s slaying he finds himself alone.  His mother, Talia, and grandfather, Ra’s Al-Ghul, refuse him aid from the League of Assassins and all three of Damian’s predecessors as Robin are not even mentioned.  Ra’s even goes so far as to say that Damian has a greater duty to Batman than he does to the League, even though Ra’s and Talia genetically engineered him to be the next leader of the League, and suggests Damian take his rightful place as the next Batman to carry on his father’s legacy.  Despite his bravado and his overwrought sense of entitlement, Damian can’t even comprehend doing that and continues on as Robin.  As he had in the past and without any guiding light to stop him, his actions are calculated, precise, and brutal as he cuts a trail through villain after villain in Gotham seeking vengeance for his father.  The only voices of reason are a priest insinuated to be former police commissioner James Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth.  Andy Kubert ends the issue with a left field twist that could fundamentally alter everything this first issue led us to believe.  Kubert is a phenomenal artist and has proven so over the past several decades consistently.  The scion of comics legend, Joe Kubert (Rest in Peace), how could he not be.  However, this issue proves that not only did he inherit his father’s artistic ability, he is also gifted with his father’s narrative genius.  This series in its first installment IS Andy Kubert, revealing through pacing, plotting, style, and voice intimately the kind of person and storyteller that Kubert is.  The only things about this issue that aren’t him are the coloring done by Brad Anderson and the lettering done by Nick Napolitano.  Andy Kubert proved his mettle on the Villains Month Joker issue and now proves it again, giving his co-creation his own four issue send off.  This is certainly a series worth reading, not only for fans of Batman, but also fans of comics in general as the son of a deceased father attempts to take up his mantle and carry on his good works.  Am I referring to Damian and Bruce Wayne or Andy and Joe Kubert?  Therein lies the question.

    Heavy Weighs the Cowl.

    Heavy Weighs the Cowl.

  • Sandman: Overture #1 is the much anticipated prequel to Neil Gaiman’s first issues of Sandman, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first issue.  The plot of this first installment is very hazy, ambling like a dream through various locations, situations, and characters.  It begins in a far off galaxy where the dominant form of life are sentient plants, with Morpheus (Dream) taking the form of a white flower upon a tall black leafed stalk.  It is in this visage that he first begins to feel somethingSandmanOverture1-1 strange in the Dreaming.  As the issue progresses, classic Sandman characters are slowly introduced to the reader for any jumpers on to the series, unfamiliar with the previous storylines.  The Corinthian makes an appearance, as does Dream’s big sister, Death, as well as his eldest sibling, the blind sage Destiny.  The issue terminates with Dream being summoned instinctually to a convocation of various versions of himself with the purpose as yet to be revealed.  Though the plot is vague, Gaiman has the style to whet his audiences appetite and entertain them despite the lack of concrete revelation.  As stated before, the plot is drawn out and nonlinear like a dream, adding to the ambiance.  Also contributing enormously to the ambiance is the peerless art of J.H. Williams III who lends his masterful talents.  When Williams and colorist Dave Stewart come together the product is magical and throw in Gaiman’s writing and you know that you are in for a show.  However, the true joy of Williams’ involvement in the book is the fallow ground Gaiman’s script grants him to spread his wings.  Through various segments of the issue his style changes, so while the beginning scenes on the plant planet are rich and vibrant, the following pages in 1915 London are dark, sketchy, and greytoned with inkwash treatments, only to later transition further into woodblocked fully monochromatic panels with the entrance of George Porcullis, and jumping ahead to the end with the four page fold out of different Morpheuses, each version of Dream is done differently some blue line prototypical, some very roughly drawn as though by a child, and some with no lines and just smeared hazy edges as though appearing from the ether.  In short this issue is one with no limitations and endless possibilities.  The pairing of two consummate geniuses on this anniversarial opus is nothing short of inspired and something for geeks around the world to rejoice about.

    Convocation of Dreams.

    Convocation of Dreams.

So ends a truly incredible batch of Annuals and special issues.  There was not one throw away book this week, with every issue put out adding something important to their imprints, titles, and subject material.  A fantastic way to end the month of October.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics Annual #2:  Art by Kenneth Rocafort & Dan Jurgens, Colored by Tomeu Morey & Blond.

Green Lantern Annual #2:  Drawn by Sean Chen, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse & Wil Quintana, Inked by Jon Sibal & Walden Wong.

Nightwing Annual Annual #1:  Art by Jason Masters, Daniel Sampere & Vincente Cifuentes, Colored by Chris Sotomayor.

Teen Titans Annual #2:  Art by Barry Kitson, Art Thibert, Jesus Merino & Scott Hanna, Colored by Pete Pantazis.

Swamp Thing Annual #2:  Art by Kano.

Damian: Son of the Batman #1:  Art by Andy Kubert, Colored by Brad Anderson.

Sandman: Overture #1:  Art by J.H. Williams III, Colored Dave Stewart.

Oct. 16, 2013

This week is a one of revelation, bringing quite a few story arcs to their satisfying conclusion and starting a few new ones.  Justice League of America reveals a major secret, Batman/Superman ends its first storyline with unique style, and Supergirl picks up after a “Who Shot J.R.” style cliffhanger dangled over two months worth of issues.  Meanwhile, Forever Evil: Rogues Revenge kicks off this month with its first issue and Batman & Robin emerges from a slew of guest stars with a five issue Two-Face “team-up.”  An awesome week to be sure, so let’s jump into it.

  • Justice League of America # 8 answers the question of what happened to the three Justice Leagues.  Since the beginning of Forever Evil the Crime Syndicate of America from Earth-3 claimed that they had killed the Justice League.  The vision of the world’s saviors defeated at the hands of a superior foe has robbed humanity of hope.  But as this issue opens Stargirl and Martian Manhunter awaken in an open field with only blue skies and green grass as far as the eyes can see.  As they move through it they realize that what they are in is a state-of-the-art prison, but how it works and to what end remains obscured.  Traversing the prison, Manhunter discovers that all League members are in fact alive and penned in very specialized cells that cater to their inherent weaknesses.  Wonder Woman, the Mighty Amazon, is forced to fight a pointless, neverending battle against humanity and her Amazonian sisters to save the lives of the two men she loves, Col. Steve Trevor and Superman.  Captain Marvel, a young boy living in the body of a titan, is placed in a city where the massive destruction he incurs in his superheroics immediately right themselves, even the slain immediately resurrecting.  For a little boy with infinite strength and a victim complex this scenario is intoxicating.  Flash, the Fastest Man Alive, is trapped in his apartment subject to the whims of his imagination, thinking he is going faster than ever when really he barely moves.  Superman, the noble Last Son of Krypton also called “the Boy Scout” by Batman, is weighed down by guilt over supposedly killing his teammates and attempts to fly fast enough to break the time barrier.  Simon Baz, Iraqi-American and fifth Green Lantern of Earth, is a man with great anger and resentment at the social injustice leveled at himself, his family, and his people.  Martian Manhunter’s mental abilities allow him to verify that each person is genuine and not delusions or elaborate hoaxes.  Writer Matt Kindt is given the honor of revealing one of the biggest secrets of Forever Evil, and tantalizes with juicy details that cut deep to the psyches of each character.  I mentioned the inherent weaknesses of the characters, but those weaknesses do not include kryptonite or the color yellow, etc.  Each of the Justice Leaguers has a weakness in their character and exploiting those weaknesses is a more sustainable restraint than their physical limitations.  So the Justice League and Justice League of America are both alive and being held in a customized super-prison.  This reveals a lot, but raises more questions.  1) Why did the CSA leave them alive when they could have killed them and ended any future interference?  2) What is the prison and how does it work?  3) Why were Stargirl and Martian Manhunter left together in the prison and how does the field play into their ideal incarceration?  Matt Kind writes a hell of a Forever Evil tie-in to usher in Justice League of America’s involvement in the greater scheme of things.  Doug Mahnke continues art duties on the title after initial series artist David Finch moved over to the main Forever Evil book.  Mahnke has a talent for rendering very serious material with the subtleties of his art.  Considering the prison’s function of playing into internal flaws, Mahnke’s art, especially in the eyes and expressions of his subjects, effectively displays their delusional states and subsequent madness. Overall, Kindt and Mahnke provide a stellar issue cutting to the heart of the Earth-1 aspect of Forever Evil.

    The Mighty Amazon.

    The Mighty Amazon.

  • Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1 fulfills the promise of its title; the Rogues’ rebellion begins.  Brian Buccellato, cowriter of The Flash, has been writing the Rogues on and off for 28 issues.  The Rogues are compelling villains, because they have ironclad codes of honor that they rigidly adhere to.  That honor is what sets them apart from the “Evil that shall inherit the Earth.”  In this spinoff series of Forever Evil, the Rogues return to Central City after witnessing the Crime Syndicate’s rousing speech reprinted in almost every tie-in book.  What greets them is a city in ruin and mass carnage.  In the Gorilla Grodd Villains Month issue we saw the cause of the carnage.  Grodd was freed from the Speed Force and abhors the concept of gorillas and humans coexisting in peace.  When Solivar, leader of Gorilla City, tried to make amends for Grodd’s attack on the Gem Cities, Grodd comes back to finish the job he began.  Humans and gorillas are slaughtered wholesale.  However, many are left alive for other villains to finish off.  The Rogues prey upon Central City and Keystone City, but they DO NOT kill and they don’t steal from people who can’t afford it.  They also are VERY territorial and any violence leveled at their home is tantamount to a declaration of war against them.  So when they find most of the Gem Cities’ police force chained to trees they let them loose, but assert right from the start that they will work with the police, but will not cow to them.  After the events of the Rogues issue during Villains Month, Lisa Snart, aka Golden Glider and younger sister of Captain Cold, fell deeper into a coma after overexerting her astral form to free her lover, Mirror Master, from his Mirror World prison.  Cold took over leadership of the Rogues after this and her safety became the primary concern of all members henceforth.  So when they visit her bedside in the hospital and the Crime Syndicate’s lackeys come forward to enact Central City’s destruction they show their true colors and give their fellow “villains” a show.  The ending of this issue was heralded before in Forever Evil #2 with the dispatch of Deathstorm (evil Firestorm of Earth-3) and Power Ring (sort of evil Green Lantern from Earth-3) to put down their rebellion.  Brian Buccellato is ridiculously on with this first issue, proving that he understands quintessentially the logos of these anti-heroic figures of comic lore.  The Rogues aren’t bad per se, but their ignominy stems from the tenacious drive they have to achieve their goals and resist anyone or anything that would stop them.  What’s more, they fight tenaciously while still holding fast to their sacrosanct code of honor.  There is a scene after they release the police when Lt. Singh, Barry Allen’s supervising officer, levels a gun at Heat Wave and the Rogue looks him in the eye and very calmly delivers a smooth warning that immediately gets the gung-ho officer to lower his weapon.  That thin line between ceding ground and seizing it is a gossamer thread that can make or break a Rogue story and Buccellato walks it like a pro.  The art of this issue is split between two artists, Patrick Zircher and Scott Hepburn.  Both artists worked with Buccellato last month on his Flash Villain issues, Zircher lending his art to The Rogues and Hepburn to Reverse Flash.  Zircher’s art was outstanding and very emotionally charged.  Hepburn’s fell flat in my opinion when juxtaposed so closely with the evocative pencils and inks of Zircher.  I didn’t mind his art in the Reverse Flash issue, and actually kind of liked it.  However, when so closely placed to such a different style, Hepburns art comes off far less realistic and more cartoonish, and considering the somber tone of the book, that is NOT conducive to the readers immersion in the plot.  Overall though, it was a phenomenal issue and one not to be missed.

    Don't Mess With Fire Or You'll Get Burned.

    Don’t Mess With Fire Or You’ll Get Burned.

  • Green Lantern: New Guardians #24 is the middle mark of the epic “Lights Out” storyline happening throughout the Green Lantern titles.   Oa, center of the universe and ancient homeworld of the Green Lantern Corps, has been destroyed by the ancient being known as Relic, leaving the Green Lantern Corps homeless and in exile.  Former Green Lantern and current White Lantern Kyle Rayner also finds himself reeling from the loss of Oa.  However, in the wake of this tragedy the errant entities of the various lights simultaneously possess him and bend him to their will.  Kyle had previously played host to Ion, entity of Will, and Parallax, entity of Fear, and been able to assert himself with difficulty, but with five of the seven infesting him at once there is no shaking them off.  However, while his incarceration is unpleasant, it does shed light on what is going on with the entities and the universe’s reservoir of light.  Justin Jordan has been helming this title since the apocalyptic events of “Wrath of the Last Lantern” concluded Tony Bedard’s run and his issues have really put the weight of the world on poor Kyle’s shoulders.  If you are a fan of Kyle Rayner, as I am, this issue and its immediate predecessors paint a very epic picture of the artist’s role in maintaining cosmic equalibrium.  Justin Jordan picks up from Robert Venditti and Van Jensen and passes the story to Charles Soule for Red Lanterns #24 with no loss of momentum.  Truly amazing.
  • Batman & Robin #24 opens with a fly landing on a sleeping Two-Face’s bad eye, which never closes when he sleeps.  Waking up, he puts a gun to his head.  By page 2 writer Peter Tomasi has already established a haunted version of the binary bad guy.  Then the story shifts to Batman and the GCPD breaking skulls to find details on the imminent return of an infamous Gotham mobster that has been running the Irish gangs remotely from numerous safe houses around the world: Erin McKillen.  She comes into town for a very important summit with all Gotham City families to determine the future of organized crime in a city plagued with “freaks.”  McKillen is told that she is going to be the one to start the ball rolling by offing Two-Face, the man she created.  Cut to a flashback of that fateful moment years ago.  Harvey Dent wakes in his office, strapped to his desk top, his wife Gilda dead on the floor with a letter opener in her chest, and Erin McKillen wearing Gilda’s clothes.  Mocking him, she pours acid on his face to show Gotham “what a two-faced son of a bitch [he] is.”  Despite the agony he breaks some glass with his shoe and saws the ropes holding him down, freeing himself, then holds his wife one last time and kisses her with his wrecked face.  Again, the characterization and the haunted nature of Harvey Dent is beautifully portrayed by Tomasi and visually rendered by Tomasi’s long time collaborator, Patrick Gleason.  No doubt there is more here than meets the eye, but there is a compelling pathos that accompanies Harvey through his portions of this month’s issue.  Like most villains examined during Villains Month, he has his overwhelming darkness that compels him into acts of villainy, but underneath the emotional (and in this case physical) scarring there is a human being.  Following the death of Damian Wayne, Tomasi has changed the title of the series month after month to accommodate his partner du jour.  Each only last a month and he moves on to the next team up.  This issue begins a five month Batman & Two Face arc.  The two Gotham City strong men might not work together directly, but there goals are the same: taking down Erin McKillen and making her face justice in some way for the heinous acts she has committed against Gotham City.  Will it be in the judicial system or at the end of a knife?  Tomasi knows what he’s doing, so I impatiently await the answer.

    The Death of Love.

    The Death of Love.

  • Batman/Superman #4 brings to an end the series’ first arc and also illuminates the opening arcs of both Justice League and Earth 2.  This first arc brings pre-Justice League #1 Batman and Superman together and sends them to Earth-2 where they meet their older, more established selves.  One thing writer Greg Pak really highlighted well in the past three issues is just how different the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Batmen and Supermen are.  One of the things I personally hated about Superman in the initial Justice League issues was how “in your face” he was and his lack of control.  Superman should be all about restraint and moderation.  The same can be said about Geoff Johns’ Batman from those same initial Justice League books that ushered in the New DCU.  Batman always is dark and brooding, but he’s intelligent and analytical about it, not confrontational and snarky without cause.  That is precisely how Greg Pak explores these two characters.  The Earth-1 iterations of the characters as they were first depicted by the misguided pen of Johns are juxtaposed against the characters as they should be, now relegated to Earth-2.  The most poignant example of this is Earth-1 Supes (whose adoptive parents died when he was in high school) meeting Earth-2 Superman and the elderly Kents.  The Kents note that Earth-1 Superman has a foul mouth and lacks patience.  Earth-2 Batman has a field day picking apart Earth-1 Batman, as does the otherwordly Batman’s wife, Catwoman.  Last issue the Apokaliptian demon named Kaiyo told the Supermen, Batmen, and Earth-2 Wonder Woman and Catwoman that this world’s military have obtained a giant crystal shard with supernatural abilities to alter reality.  This weapon was made to combat Superman, but Kaiyo says it can be used to combat a greater threat that is imminent.  Darkseid.  The Earth-2 Superman and Batman want it destroyed.  Earth-1 Superman and Batman want to save it.  Their initial desires and the people they are ultimately dictate their respective fates and eventual dooms.  The arc was rife with dichotomies between Batman and Superman and between different versions of themselves.  Greg Pak comes into the game late, but takes what has been done shoddily in the past and makes it work toward a larger purpose.  His rendering of imperfect characters is thoughtful and highly entertaining, but raises the question of what he will do in his next arc which looks to take place in a post-Justice League #1 continuity when both Batman and Superman were written better and when, as characters, they began to respect one another.  Also worth mentioning is the breathtaking art by Jae Lee.  Lee’s rendering of characters is very ethereal in the emotionless expressions he imbues them with and a look of effortlessness in everything they do, no matter how incredible.  Considering the clash of titans this arc depicts, Lee is the quintessential choice for it.  Four issues in and this has become a must read series.

    Nice Guys DO Finish Last . . .

    Nice Guys DO Finish Last . . .

  • Batwoman #24 is a bittersweet issue marking the premature departure of writers J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman from the title.  Initially when they decided to leave they were going to write through issue #25 to end the overreaching arc they had begun.  This issue marks the actual end of their run, one issue shy of their intended end.  And what a cliffhanger they left . . .  Since the beginning of the “Weeping Woman” arc in early 2012 Batwoman, a.k.a Kate Kane, has been on the hook by the D.E.O. chief, Director Bones, and his underling Agent Cameron Chase.  Since the mid 90’s when J.H. Williams III worked on the series Chase the D.E.O. (Department of Extranormal Occurrences) has been looking for the holy grail of secrets in the superhero world: the identity of the Batman.  They have tried everything and always come up short.  Batwoman becomes their ace in the hole.  With a vulnerable member of the Bat-family in their pocket they have the means to finally blow that secret wide open.  Chase learns that Col. Jacob Kane (Batwoman’s father) armed his daughter with military equipment and later they get their hands on Kate’s twin sister, Beth, a.k.a Alice.  Williams and Blackman have been building toward this moment for twenty issues and the moment has finally come.  Bones has unleashed renegade Batman villains on Gotham as a massive diversion while Batwoman gets in close.  In the meantime Jacob, Betty a.k.a Flamebird (Kate’s cousin and sidekick) and a select team of operatives infiltrate the D.E.O. safe house where Beth is being held.  Beth is on the verge of being rescued and Batwoman sucker punches Batman, but good.  This issue ends in the perfect way to set up a MASSIVE finale to a storyline looooong in the making, only for the writers to be driven from their title.  Also distressing is the off-putting of the conclusion to December with the last minute inclusion of Batwoman to the “Blackout” event throughout the DCU.  As a Gothamite her involvement does make a modicum of sense.  November marks the regime shift of relief writer Marc Andreyko and artist Jeremy Haun.  J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman are two incredible writers and Williams a peerless artist.  The loss of both could be catastrophic to this must-read title.  In my opinion this distressing possibility is augmented by the awful job Andreyko did on the Sword of Sorcery backup feature “Stalker.”  The original story created and written by Paul Levitz in the 70’s was amazing.  Andreyko’s was version was horrendous to read and completely without point.  His ability to pick up where greater minds have left off remains highly questionable.  We’ll see what November holds for Batwoman.

    Battle of the Bats.

    Battle of the Bats.

  • Supergirl #24 is one of the October issues screaming for release after the shock ending of August’s Supergirl #23. Supergirl had found herself on a constantly morphing colony of hive-minded mechanized organisms called the I’Noxia.  These machines are benign in nature, but forced to cooperated with the Collector (Brainiac) and his creation, the Cyborg Superman.  Supergirl is dying from Kryptonite poisoning after the “H’el on Earth” crossover in the Super-books. The I’Noxians offer her haven by computerizing her intelligence in exchange for Cyborg Superman gaining custody of her body and using her Kryptonian flesh to reconstitute his missing parts, returning his former body, but also the missing memories of his identity.  She resists and he takes what he wants by force.  He gets his body and his memories back and lo and behold . . . he’s Zor-El.  Kara’s father!  Upon regaining his memories and his mind he is immediately struck with horror at what Brainiac’s programming made him do.  In September the Cyborg Superman issue of Action Comics revealed the connection between Zor-El and Brainiac and how he came to be made into the Cyborg Superman.  Zor-El is a good man, but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  And in this issue a father’s love takes him once again down the road to Hell.  Kara can live again.  The I’Noxians have the technology to reconstitute her, but that would require the rebirth of the Cyborg Superman.  Writer Michael Alan Nelson writes a compelling version of Zor-El, eldest son of the House of El, and dedicated scientist.  His love of his family and his people forced him to seek help in the most dangerous places if even the slightest chance of survival exists.  Ending this issue, Kara comes face to face with the cosmic entity known as the Oracle, heralding the beginning of the “Krypton Returns” storyline beginning with Action Comics Annual #2. After the lead ins to this event dropped in both Superman #0 and Supergirl #0 last September I have been waiting on pins and needles to see the resolution as to how Superman and Superboy could have been on Krypton prior to its destruction.  In a little over a month we will have the answer.

    Behold the Oracle.

    Behold the Oracle.

  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #24 brings about the final showdown in ‘Eth Alth’eban between the League of Assassins, guardians of the Well of Sins, and the Untitled, ancient embodiments of evil born from the Well. Jason has been chosen to be the leader of the League and fights to stave off the assault that could result in the end of all things. Jason proves to be an adept disciple of the Batman, exhibiting the same ingenuity and resolve against forces far beyond his measure.  Indeed, that is most likely why the League chose him as their leader.  On the other side of fight, Roy Harper also is shown in a revealing light.  Previously, Roy helped the Untitled breach the impenetrable walls of ‘Eth Alth’eban under the understanding that he would be freeing Jason from a pack of vipers (which the League of Assassins are) and saving the world.  That last part wasn’t true at all, which he realized too late.  However, in his moment of reflection on his deteriorating relationships with Jason and Starfire he manages to capture the sympathy and last throbs of human compassion in the heart of the assassin, Cheshire, who in previous DC iterations was the mother of his daughter, Lian.  James TynionIV’s writing of this series is pretty good, although admittedly he has a long way to go to measure up to his predecessor and the series’ creator, Scott Lobdell.  Lobdell created the Untitled, so Tynion’s wrapping up of the fabled cabal begs the question of what Lobdell’s original intentions were for them.  Other than that, the issue comes off very well and reintroduces a venerable figure in Batman lore to the New 52.  Julius Gopez continues his phenomenal work as artist on the series, adding weight and substance to the Tynion’s scripts though his very expressive artwork.  Every emotion is blatant in his lines immediately immersing the reader in the agony and ecstasy of the book’s cast of characters.  Definitely and enjoyable book and a series worth picking up.

    The Heart of Chesire.

    The Heart of Chesire.

  • Vibe #8 dives head first into the wellspring of Cisco Ramon’s powers.  Vibe, as he’s been called, got his powers when he was caught in the event horizon of an Apokaliptian Boom Tube during Great Darkseid’s invasion of our world.  As a result he is attuned to extradimensional vibrations and able to sense and counteract beings from other dimensions.  Up to this point his powers were uses to detect intruders and refugees from other planes and if necessary, combat them.  After being wounded and sucked out of our dimension he begins leaking that energy the Boom Tube endowed him with, hurtling him from dimension to dimension with no control.  In the background as he cascades through all existence are little easter eggs from the two year run of the New DCU, including the recent fight between Green Lantern (Alan Scott) and Bruutal on Earth-2, the Phantom Zone, President Superman from Earth-5, and the gemworld of Nilaa that we last saw in the now cancelled Sword of Sorcery title.   It is while defending Princess Amethyst from the Quartz Hordes that the enigmatic figure called Breacher finds Cisco and puts a patch on his wound that stabilizes his dimensional radiation.  He takes Vibe to his own world, Piradell, and tells of the history that lead to its subjugation by the despotic Queen Mordeth and how that ties back to the same event that gave Cisco his powers.  At the same time that Cisco was imbued with interdimensional energies the Boom Tube collapsed on his elder brother, Armando.  They always assumed that Armando died, when he actually became a creature like Cisco and upon landing on Piradell gave Mordeth the means to subjugate that world.  Now Breacher and Cisco need to save Piradell, Armando who is under the thrall of Mordeth, and Mordeth’s daughter, Gypsy.  Sterling Gates has done the seemingly impossible, making Vibe a good character.  His original iteration in the Justice League Detroit comics was a joke at best.  Now he is substantial, thoughtful, and endowed with a sense of consequence in the larger scheme of the emerging DC multiverse.  Back in the day, the Flash was the keymaster to the multiverse, having the ability to vibrate though realities from Earth to Earth.  While Flash still has that ability, Vibe is pretty much made to solely be the custodian of opening the gates off our Earth, but also keeping those that breach from remaining.  With that in mind, and with the multiverse slowly blooming in emerging DC plots, Vibe is a character to watch.

    From the Icy Plains of the Phantom Zone to the Steps of President Superman's Capitol.

    From the Icy Plains of the Phantom Zone to the Steps of President Superman’s Capitol.

  • Pandora #4 opens in the aftermath of Forever Evil #1 with Pandora, who was present when the Outsider (Earth-3 Alfred Pennyworth) opened the box that bears her name, finding herself transported to a desolate world littered with bones.  Earth-3.  The Birthplace of Evil.  The only living thing she encounters is the blind and mortally wounded J’onn J’onzz (Martian Manhunter) of that reality.  Through his rhetoric she become aware that the Crime Syndicate intend to do to our Earth what they did to this one.  When she returns to Earth-1 she hatches a plan.  First she entrusts a friend with the mission of reforging Pandora’s Box from the shattered remnants left after it opened the portal to the place of its birth, letting the CSA into our dimensional plane.  The next step is getting her OLD friend Vandal Savage to give her the means to infiltrate the Secret Society meeting in order that she can get at the man known as the Outsider.  What she intends to do with him remains up in the air, but that only ropes the reader into buying next month’s issue.  I’ve made no secret that I am not a fan of the writing style of this series’ writer, Ray Fawkes, but it can’t be denied that this issue is very well done and an integral tie-in to the overarching Forever Evil event going on throughout the DCU.  Series artist Francis Portela is always a delight with his lush artwork that has been seen in Legion of Superheroes (LONG LIVE THE LEGION!) and last month’s Killer Croc issue in the Batman & Robin title.  Whether the success of this issue is predicated on Fawke’s writing or the tent pole Forever Evil plotline remains to be seen, but until that event wraps in March this series will no doubt carry its weight in realizing the full measure of Earth-3 and absolute evil.

And there you have it.  An awesome week of comics that overall exceed the mark of this comic book geek.  Here’s hoping next week measures up the same.
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Justice League of America #8:  Drawn by Doug Mahnke, Colored by Hi-Fi & Gabe Eltaeb, Inked by Christian Alamy, Tom Nguyen, Keith Champagne & Marc Deering.

Forever Evil: Rogues Rebellion #1:  Art by Patrick Zircher, Colored by Nick Filardi.

Batman & Robin #24:  Drawn by Patrick Gleason, Colored by John Kalisz, Inked by Mick Gray.

Batman/Superman #4:  Art by Jae Lee, Colored by June Chung.

Batwoman #24:  Art by Trevor McCarthy, Colored by Guy Major.

Supergirl #24:  Drawn by Diogenes Neves, Colored by Guy Major, Inked by Marc Deering.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #24:  Drawn by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino & Hi-Fi, Inked by Walden Wong & Ray McCarthy.

Vibe #8:  Drawn by Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked by Mark Irwin & Marc

Oct. 9, 2013

This second week of October has some much anticipated titles among its numbers.  The oversized Batman #24 has been burning a hole in people’s calendars for three months now as “Zero Years” has rolled onward towards an unknown, tantalizing end.   Superman/Wonder Woman has been causing controversy since late August after artist Tony Daniel let his mouth run away with him at Fan Expo in Toronto.  And with the killer first installment of “Lights Out” in Green Lantern #24 last week Green Lantern Corps #24 gives another taste of the unthinkable plot that is heralding a new age in the Green Lantern books.  Also comes the inaugural issue of the new Vertigo series Coffin Hill. So much awesome for one week.  

    • Batman #24 is a monumental Batman piece, both in size and importance to the reimagined Batman mythos. Writer Scott Snyder undertook a revamped origin story for the Dark Knight entitled “Zero Year,” which will in essence preempt Frank Miller’s “Year One”, doing the same job but tailored to the New DCU. To cut his teeth, Bruce Wayne squares off against the Red Hood Gang. In the past the Red Hood Gang and its eponymous leader have been fairly small time dealers, mostly pulling petty B&E’s and bushleague bank robberies. In Snyder’s vision the gang takes on a more sinister nature and magnitude. Their leader Red Hood One still wears the shiny red bell jar helmet, offset further up on his head so his evil grin is visible, and the suit and red cape, as before.  All of his subordinates wear suits sans cape and nondescript red Zentai masks. Also menacing is the fact that a ridiculously large percentage of Red Hood members are regular folk blackmailed or coerced into doing Red Hood One’s bidding. Snyder definitely read or watched “Fight Club,” because Red Hood One is taking on a very Tyler Durden vibe, creating an anarchist movement that infiltrates every echelon of society. Wearing various disguises and also in his Bruce Wayne persona, “Batman” has fought a back and forth war with the Red Hoods, but with the revelation that his uncle, Philip Kane, was arming the gang from Wayne Enterprise depots the struggle enters its endgame. Philip is a slippery businessman, but in actuality his part in the gang is like most members’, coerced by the enigmatic leader. Bruce finally is able to piece together Red Hood’s ultimate plan and sets a counter-plot into motion to block its fruition. Through this plan of Bruce’s Scott Snyder ties up many things begun from the inception of his Batman origin arc.  Close to the beginning, Bruce remembers his father, Dr. Thomas Wayne, inquiring what Bruce loved about Gotham. That question, which Bruce now poses via televised interview to all Gothamites encapsulates and validates the entire concept of who and what Batman represents. After the final sequence of Batman #23 with the icon scene of the bat crashing through the window in front of the shaken Bruce, weare finally shown for the first time in “Zero Year” continuity the fully realized Batman persona. By issue’s end, the defeat of the gang is delivered, as is the ultimate fate of Red Hood One.  I had a conspiracy theory that Red Hood One wasn’t the Joker, but some other Batman villain, i.e. the Riddler, or ironically Black Mask. That proved to be false.  It’s heavily insinuated to be the Joker. However, as he did with his other major arcs, “The Court of Owls” and “Death of the Family,” Snyder obscures that concrete facts to speculation and the identity of the man who fell into the vat of chemicals and his role in the gang remains unclear. Scott Snyder’s completion of the first leg of his “Zero Year” story is nothing short of amazing and provides a SOLID foundation for the New DCU Batman for as long as that continuity stands.  In the plot itself, Philip has a giant boulder of mica schist stone that cannot be broken and is hard to shape placed in his office.  He relates that these immutable characteristics make the mica ideal to build on.  There is probably a deeper meaning to the plot somewhere in that analogy, but I didn’t catch it.  What I did interpret it as, however, was a metaphor for the strength of the story as the basis for all Batman stories to come. Greg Capullo’s art is peerless. His rendering of Snyder’s complex storylines is clear, concise, stark, and moving.  Rafael Albuquerque, regular Batman backup artist and co-creator of American Vampire with Synder, provides the art for the denouement scene of this issue that puts to bed the Red Hood arc and sets up the coming Riddler arc, entitled “Blackout.” Overall, this issue blows all other Batman stories out of the water.

      What Does Gotham Mean to You?

      What Does Gotham Mean to You?

    • Batgirl #24 opens on the second installment of the “Batgirl: Wanted” plot arc.  After “killing” her psychotic little brother, James Jr., Barbara has taken off her Batgirl uniform and decided not to wear the Bat symbol, because of her actions.  Also following this event, her father, Commissioner James Gordon puts out an all-points bulletin on Batgirl and (unbeknownst to him) his own daughter.  Babs wants nothing more than to put her nocturnal past behind her and find happiness.  She attempts to do so by hanging out more with her bohemian roommate, Alyssa, and dating a former gang member, Ricky, who she met as Batgirl.  But of course the universe won’t allow a member of the Bat-family to know any modicum of peace.  Batgirl’s former nemesis Knightfall’s menacing machinations sight both Ricky and her father in the crosshairs.  After the traumatic events of Batgirl #23 two months ago Babs has to weigh her sense of guilt against her sense of duty.  Gail Simone writes this series like it’s her own, and truly her Barbara is the only one I want to read for the foreseeable future.
    • Forever Evil: Arkham War #1 takes a closer look at the mayhem in Gotham following the fall of the Justice League and the advent of the Crime Syndicate.  The Syndicate has rallied the evilest minds on the planet to their banner and in exchange for obedience they are given privileges to do as they like.  The Gothamite villains (mostly Arkham inmates) were given free reign over Gotham with Penguin named mayor.  Penguin in turn divided Gotham into districts each under the control of a powerful Arkham inmate.  Writer Peter Tomasi laid the groundwork for this series with two Villains Month issues: Scarecrow and Bane.  Both were pretty lackluster, but what they did do was set the tenor of these two characters for the purposes of this series.  Both Scarecrow and Bane have appeared in several Bat-titles since the inception of the New 52 and been written by multiple writers including Paul Jenkins, James Tynion IV, David Finch, and Gregg Hurwitz.  While neither Scarecrow or Bane have been altered in major ways, their modus operandi are tailored to fit the desired ends for this series’ plot.  With Bane bringing a moderately sized army of highly trained Santa Priscan mercenaries to Gotham war is on the horizon and Scarecrow is serving as the Paul Revere of Gotham, readying the “freaks” for a war with the fanatical juggernaut.  In the opening strokes of his plan Blackgate Prison falls to Bane, as do the Talons incarcerated therein in cryogenic stasis.  Professor Pyg reappears for the first time since Grant Morrison wrapped up his opening run of Batman & Robin.  The horrific experiments going on in his district proves the full depth of his depravity.  With Gotham Memorial Hospital and its medical supplies in his sphere of influence, his allegiance is integral with war looming and could shift the balance. Bane is a tactical genius as well as a badass with an army of two thousand fanatically loyal foot soldiers battle hardened in one of the worst places on Earth.  However, he’s going up against the equally keen mind of the Penguin and a collection of the sickest men and women in the DC universe, and the Crime Syndicate doesn’t care who comes out on top.  On the contrary, they welcome it, as the conflict will purge the weak from their midst. Neither side can rest on their laurels and what is about to ensue is a grandmaster chess tournament in the decimated streets of Gotham.  Tomasi and artist Scot Eaton have the entire Batman pantheon at their disposal, as the cover hints, and appear to be making good use of it.  This series is shaping up to be a tangent of Forever Evil that shouldn’t be missed.
    • Green Lantern Corps #24 continues the unthinkable events of “Lights Out” into its second installment.  No one thought that Oa could be destroyed, and yet after the final moments of Green Lantern #24 that is precisely the jagged pill the entire Green Lantern Corps are forced to swallow.  Green Lantern Corps #24 picks up the pieces from that horrible moment and focuses on how the Corps of Will will face this most personal, dispiriting defeat and pick themselves up to fight for the last thing they have: each other.  Relic has proven that he is not able to be defeated by the full might of the Green Lantern Corps, having already seriously wounding hundreds.  To affect an evacuation John Stewart and a contingent of handpicked Lanterns take the fight to the ancient juggernaut, not to defeat him, but to distract him so the bulk of the Green Lantern Corps can find refuge elsewhere.  Cowriters Van Jensen and Robert Venditti plot this issue so exquisitely in the heartbreaking situations they create and decisions these Lanterns make in the “do-or-die” last moments of Oa.  One Lantern makes the ultimate sacrifice, validating their ring’s choice of their worthiness and then some.  What this issue and its fellows represent is the ending of an era and the beginning of an ENTIRELY new Green Lantern status quo.  When Geoff Johns took over the title, resurrecting it after a decade of neglect, he changed the rules of the game as it had been known for forty-odd years, creating or retrofitting new lantern corps for each hue of light.  Robert Venditti is basically doing that again with the advent of Relic and this “Lights Out” plotline.  Only time will tell if it is successful, but so far I am impressed with the gravity and pathos he has imbued thusfar.GreenLanternCorps24-1

      GreenLanternCorp24-2

      Death of a Lantern, Death of a World.

    • Nightwing #24 concludes the first arc of the series following the massive paradigm shift of “Death of the Family.”  After the Joker enacts the final coup de grace to Dick Grayson’s dream of resurrecting Haly’s Circus (the circus he and his parents performed in before their fateful accident) Dick decides to move to Chicago.  For the most part it was because he needed to distance himself from Gotham and the cold machinations of Batman, but the larger part was the revelation that the man who killed his parents, Tony Zucco, was alive and well, living in the Windy City.  When Dick blows into town he finds a city that seems relatively “clean” compared to Gotham.  Considering that we’re talking about Chicago irony abounds and sets a picture of how bad Gotham must be.  However, as the plot unfolds over the first several issues it is shown that Chi-town is still as corrupt as it’s always been with Mayor Wallace Cole protecting Zucco with a false identity and an advisory position.  With that kind of grift going on an anti-heroic persona called the Prankster makes the scene, revealing the corrupt dealings in very theatrical, dramatic ways that often times skew toward the violent.  The best example being his forcing an alderman who stole millions of dollars to bring several thousand to a specific location and throwing him into a pit with wolves.  If the alderman burns the money bill by bill he can keep the wolves at bay.  However, the bills burn at a certain rate which makes their quantity versus the time it would take the police to find him a very close call.  They get there in time to save him, but the bills had run out and the alderman is missing an arm when he’s pulled out.  Such is the Prankster.  But while he may seem like a Robin Hood styled anti-heroic outlaw revolutionary figure, this issue displays how untrue that assumption is as well as the Prankster’s REAL aim.  Nightwing is the only person who can stop the chaos erupting from Prankster’s vendetta and what’s more the person helping him is Tony Zucco!  Kyle Higgins has been writing this series since issue #1 and has stayed on the title for a very simple reason:  He can WRITE Dick Grayson like the best of them.  His Nightwing is compelling, complicated, and very personal.  He takes the reader through the plots he faces as though they were inside Dick’s head and had his entire life as their precedents for reaction.  Will Conrad provides gorgeous art that is different, but equally appropriate to his predecessor, Brett Booth’s.  With Higgins is on this title, it is not to be missed.
    • Worlds’ Finest #16 enters the series into an interim period, taking a break from the Apokaliptian menaces left in our world after Great Darkseid’s invasion of our Earth in Justice League 1-6.  The main threat in the series, Desaad, who posed as the errant industrialist Michael Holt, not only tore apart Helena and Karen’s lives, but also stole Karen’s company Starr Industries.  After the events of issue #15 Desaad has emerged victorious, but also taked to the wind, his whereabouts and activities unknown.  What is known is the detrimental effect that final encounter had on Karen Starr, aka Power Girl, depriving her of her powers.  At issue’s opening Helena is staking out arson at fashion shows and Karen is recovering her company from Desaad’s human cronies and attempting to get her powers back.  Following this paradigm shift the issue follows the two tracking a bald young woman of ambiguous heritage, covered in what look like tribal tattoos.  She is the one setting the fires and she also has the abilities to manipulate jet black constructs, either shadow based or generated from her tattoos.  Paul Levitz sets up events, but doesn’t provide too much information as to where the plot is going or its overall relevance to overarching stroylines he’s been working toward for 17 issues.  Considering his talent and the incredible job he’s done so far, Levitz is allowed to have an issue or two to just muck around.  Even in his down moments, he puts out a helluva good comic.
    • Superman/Wonder Woman #1 is an exceptional surprise.  After months of negative reactions on the internet, the issue is finally out and it’s amazing!  The whole hubbub arose from an unfortunate turn of phrase artist Tony S. Daniel dropped at Toronto Fan Expo that this book would hopefully encourage female readership by emulating the “Twilight” franchise with some romance, a little sex appeal, and action.  This seemed to offend both male and female readers with the comparison to awful storytelling and especially offended female fans with the concept that they were being pandered to.  Comment aside, the title seemed to have infinite promise so for the past several months I’ve kept an attitude of “wait and see” optimism.  I maintained that same attitude during the also “Twilight” compared redux of Lobo and was rewarded with possibly the WORST DC comic I have EVER read.  Just awful.  Superman/Wonder Woman, on the other hand, turned out to be a very thoughtful, intelligent examination of the burgeoning relationship between the Man of Steel and the Mighty Amazon.  I have to state my bias up front, though.  I wasn’t excited about the pairing of Wonder Woman with Superman initially, feeling that DC was pandering to their readers with overzealous fanboy fantasies.  Geoff Johns pulled it out eventually by highlighting that both characters are strangers in a strange land.  What this series’ writer Charles Soule does is take a deeper examination of that relationship.  Topically, the two have outsider status in common, but apart from that they are very different.  Superman, as an extension of Clark Kent, is a very reserved Zen character who exists under the radar, not drawing undue attention to himself or making a show of his innate abilities.  Wonder Woman on the other hand is the daughter of Zeus, born into a proud warrior race that exalts strength and ability.  Therein lies a diametric difference between the two superheroes.  Wonder Woman is slightly put off by his reservedness about himself, but more so about their relationship.  However, both try to gently acclimate themselves to each other’s ways, because while they are different they do love each other.  Superman and Wonder Woman are paradigms of masculinity and femininity respectively, but also American icons wearing the colors of our flag in their costumes.  In just this first issue, Soule maintains both these aspects of the characters, but puts a very refreshing dimension to these facets.  Superman is a very masculine character that exhibits hallmark traits of the male psyche, such as doing the heavy lifting or going into danger first, but he also is the more demure party in the quieter moments and passively lets a lot of things happen around him.  Wonder Woman is rendered as a very feminine character, but is also portrayed as the more assertive figure both in the active courting in the relationship as well as the more outspoken heroic figure.  They are opposites, but at the same time complement each other in most ways.  As American symbols they harken back to the ideal that America is an immigrant nation.  An interesting happenstance in the American experiment was people from very different ethnic communities coming together in mutual attraction across wide gaps of cultural differences.  Diana is very much an immigrant from a society that has strong traditions and customs.  Clark’s an interesting case, as he was born on another planet with its own unique culture, but from infancy he was raised in Kansas with only secondhand understanding of his heritage.  So Diana represents first generation immigrants, and Clark represents the split second generation juggling their host culture with that of their forbearers.  Diana’s rooting in the mindset of her proud Amazon heritage confounds her as she looks at both the subtleties of Clark’s Midwestern sensibilities and his isolationist Kryptonian ones.  It even hurts her to think he might be ashamed to be associated with her publicly, but instead of assuming the worst, she seeks to close the gap by showing him her culture and keeping an open mind about that American culture he grew up with and perhaps later his Kryptonian one.  The latter part might be something dealt with in another issue, but that remains to be seen.  In terms of characterization, this is a Wonder Woman issue.  In terms of story development, this issue dealt much more on the Superman/Clark Kent aspect, working toward fleshing out the development of the indie news blog Clark is working on with Cat Grant.  However, the issue’s gravitas for Superman fans comes with the revelation of the villain at the issue’s end.  I am surprised that “he” showed up in this series and not another of the Super-books, but the possibilities inherent in his advent only enrich the title.  Needless to say, Charles Soule’s writing is impeccable. Art-wise, Tony Daniel takes that lead and brings it home.  His Superman and Wonder Woman are gorgeous creatures, but that’s no surprise.  Daniel drew both in Justice League #13-14, and drew Superman in Action Comics #19-21.  The sum total of two consummate professionals is pure comic excellence.

      The Worlds of Superman and Wonder Woman.

      The Worlds of Superman and Wonder Woman.

  • FBP (Federal Physics Bureau) #4 resumes while FBP agents Jay Kelly and Adam Hardy are still in the bubble universe that is on the verge of collapse, endangering everyone caught inside.  That collapse is hastened by Jay’s planting of explosives in key areas within the bubble.  Jay and Adam were sent in to extract James Crest, CEO of Crest Corps, currently undergoing S.E.C. investigation.  But before he extracts his target, Adam goes for a face-to-face with his “partner.”  Jay attempted to kill him upon entry and Adam wants to know why.  Though Jay can’t give him the answers he wants, he begins the slow revelation of a conspiracy to exploit the nature of the unhinged laws of physics.  Following the conclusion of the bubbleverse incident writer Simon Oliver delves into the very real subject of the privatization of government services.  Here it is the privatization of “Physics Protection.”  The characters of Adam and his boss Cicero Deluca take on new depth in this issue, showing how they deal with the mounting pressure put on their agency a following the SNAFU of Jay’s betrayal.  Both in the science-fiction aspects and allegory to our current political temperature, FBP is a series to watch.

    The New Name if Physics Protection.

    The New Name if Physics Protection.

  • Coffin Hill #1 is either a tantalizing first issue to an amazing series or a hollow, abstruse beginning of a contrived one.  It’s hard to say, because there is a MAJOR disconnect between the present and the past with next to no logical segue.  In 2013 we meet police rookie Eve Coffin who catches a serial killer called the “Ice Fisher” who targets young women.  She goes home and is shot by a friend’s boyfriend and nearly dies.  Flashing back to 2003 we see a teenaged Eve who was the scion of a venerated New England family with a haunted reputation.  As she describes it via narration: “Old blood. Old money.  Old secrets.”  Following her past exploits we see a posh world of lavish, debauch parties steeped in old world mysticism.  We also see a very neglected childhood with WASP-ish parents that disdain her existence and whose marked dislike emboldens the bad behavior that fuels it, creating a vicious cycle of familial discord.  Escaping this, she and her friends enact a ritual from an old family spellbook Eve swipes from her parents’ study.  The results are bloody, but enigmatic.  Cut back to the present with Eve quitting the force and moving back home to Coffin Hill.  As the quality of this series’ story is up in the air, so too is the writing of Caitlin Kittredge, although her framing of dialogue and the plot she chooses to reveal are very well written, if not well done.  Artist Inaki Miranda is the most consistent variable within the comic.  Her art is sleek, sumptuous, and evocative of the haunted ambiance created by Kittredge’s script.  In retrospect this could be a phenomenal first issue.  If the plot doesn’t develop, it could be remembered as a strawman issue.  I will continue reading and find out which.

    The Life of Eve Coffin.

    The Life of Eve Coffin.

This week did not disappoint in the quality of the issues carried forward from August nor in the inherent promise of their subjects.  At its least enjoyable moments there was still the promise of payoff in the future.  That’s a good week!

 

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Batman #24: Drawn by Greg Capullo, Colored by FCO Plascencia, Inked by Danny Miki.

Green Lantern Corps #24: Art by Bernard Chang, Colored by Marcelo Maiolo.

Superman/Wonder Woman #1: Drawn by Tony S. Daniel, Colored by Tomeu Morey, Inked by BATT.

FBP #4: Art by Robbi Rodriguez, Colored by Rico Renzi.

Coffin Hill #1: Art by Inaki Miranda, Colored by Eva De La Cruz.

Week 89 (May 15, 2013)

  • Batwoman #20 is yet another game changing issue in a game changing series.  Years ago Batwoman fought a madwoman in the guise of a Religion of Crime prophetess names Alice, who looked like a latex fetish version of the famous Wonderland heroine.  Spoke a lot like her, too.  After defeating her, and only moments before she fell to her “death”, Batwoman realized that Alice was in fact her long “dead” twin, Elizabeth.  Well for the second time Beth has defied death to be found in the land of the living, this time in the custody of the D.E.O., comprising yet another manacle Director Bones has chained to Kate Kane’s leg to assure compliance with the agency’s whims.  On the other side of the narrative are the family and friends of Kate.  Up until last issue they had no idea that Kate was a D.E.O. puppet, being forced into doing their bidding.  Thanks to Kate’s dad, Col. Jacob Kane, the Colonel, Kate’s cousin and one time sidekick Betty (aka Flamebird), Kate’s stepmother Katherine, and Kate’s fiancee Det. Maggie Sawyer all know what she is doing and more importantly WHY she’s been doing it.  Within the close circle of confidantes is a great deal of dissent.  Kate hasn’t spoken to her father since she learned about Beth’s still being alive.  Katherine is livid that her husband has kept the secret of her stepdaughter and step-niece’s nocturnal activities a secret, amongst other things.  Det. Maggie Sawyer is still a little on edge after finding out the woman she loves is in fact the criminal whom she is tasked by Gotham Central to bring in for vigilantism.  All of these quibbles are quelled with the revelation of the horrible situation that Kate has fallen into, for all intents and purposes being enslaved by a shadowy government agency to do their dirty work, as well as the situation facing Beth Kane and her fragile psychological state.  From the looks of it, this could be the turning point from the beginning of the series that will emancipate Kate and turn the book onto a completely new status quo.  I am hoping that it does.  Cowriters J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman have kept this series constantly evolving and its readers always on their toes.  For that reason this series has been a must read book and a delight to read month after month for twenty-two straight months (both zero issues included).
  • Batgirl #20 is another issue that changes the entire flow of its series.  With issue #19 of Batgirl the dominoed daredoll seemingly killed her brother, James Gordon Jr. With that she has lost the good grace of Gotham police commissioner and her own father, James Gordon Sr.  But apart from that she has also exacted the heavy toll of having to finally take responsibility for putting her psychotic little brother down once and for all.  If she didn’t, her mother was prepared to, and like a trooper she took the burden of killing him from her mother’s hands.  In this issue she bursts in on her psychiatrist and makes her veiled confessions, keeping the details that would reveal her masked secret, but still attempting to gain some semblence of catharsis. The issue also reintroduces a classic Batman villain, the Ventriloquist, who comes on the scene.  This time around the dummy is named Ferdie, not the gangster doll, Scarface, and the ventriloquist is a timid young woman named Shauna that has lacked the ability for self-expression.  In the past it’s always been hinted at, but never concretely proved that the ventriloquist dummy somehow was calling the shots, yet still maintaining the reality of deep psychosis in the human involved.  However, this version is dangerously close to shattering that by having the doll seem to move by itself with no strings attached in several panels.  I can’t say that I am a fan of that kind of fourth wall tipping.  However, other aspects of the emerging Batgirl mythos merging together in this issue, such as the crippled former gang member that Barbara has been flirting with and the sinister socialite/vigilante Knightfall lends a sense of long term world building under the capable hands of writer Gail Simone.  Definitely an excellent issue.

    Fourth Wall Broken

    Fourth Wall Broken

  • Nightwing #20 has our title character nestling into his new life in Chicago.  It’s not idyllic to say the least.  He is awoken from a sound sleep after a looooong night of crime fighting by the woman who’s apartment he’d been subletting (unbeknownst to her) kicking him in the chest and brandishing a baseball bat over his head.  Not the best way to wake up in the morning.  Then comes the discovery that Tony Zucco, the mobster who murdered Nightwing’s parents, is under the protection of the mayor’s office.  The Alderman who the Prankster forced to burn his amassed wealth to fend off ravenous wolves is found early the following morning alive, albeit with his arm ripped off and being eaten by said wolves.  A confrontation with the masked anti-hero or villain (hard to nail down) is inevitable and culminates in a very intriguing cliffhanger ending.  Kyle Higgins has been writing this series exquisitely since issue one and the fun doesn’t look to be close to stopping anytime soon.  Brett Booth’s artistic contributions to this series have been considerable, lending a deal of smooth, effortless lines that jibe exceptionally well with Dick Grayson’s persona as an acrobat/aerialist.  I look forward to seeing further adventures of the former Robin in the Windy City.

    It's Always Funny Until Someone Loses an Arm . . .

    It’s Always Funny Until Someone Loses an Arm . . .

  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #20 picks up after last issue where Jason Todd, after a month of horrors (told over several months of issues) goes to the Acres of All, home of the All-Caste, and has his memories voluntarily erased.  Last issue, his friends and comrades Roy Harper (Red Arrow) and Princess Koriand’r (Starfire) tracked him down to help him in his moment of need only to find him erased of all his memories and as well as the darkness they engendered inside him.  Angered by this Roy and Starfire accost the gatekeeper of the  Acres of All (also the only remaining member of the All-Caste left alive) for his part in it.  The resultant conversation takes the two “Outlaws” through a tour of the accumulated memories extracted from Jason’s mind to give a sample of just what pain and torment the gatekeeper had expunged from Jason’s mind.  What also comes about is an exploration of who Roy and Starfire are as well.  In the past Roy was in a bad spot with Green Arrow  and life in general and out of the blue, the newly minted Robin (Jason) showed up and with great optimism and kindness helped Roy through a really tough moment.  From that point on, Roy had an anchor that has connected him with Jason compelling him to help out the anti-heroic former Robin.  Starfire’s past is also laid out, albeit far less complementary.  Upon the conclusion of this issue, one thing is certain, things have changed and for good or ill, Jason is moving forward without the keystone events that have thus far shaped him into what we have come to know as the figure called the Red Hood.  In the last couple of pages, new writer James Tynion sets up the intro for what will be the Red Hood and the Outlaws first ever annual, coming out in two weeks.

    A Red Arrow and a Red Hood

    A Red Arrow and a Red Hood

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #20 marches forward towards its blowout conclusion.  Glorith, Ultraboy, and Chameleon Boy escape Rimbor for Sorcerers World only to find that planet also under siege by another member of the Fatal Five, Validus.  The three legionnaires link up with their former comrade and ruler of Sorcerers World, Black Witch, and her legionnaire lover, Blok to combat this evil.  Glorith and Black Witch are able to deal with the ravaging monster, but the cost is quite dear.  It also lands Ultraboy and Chameleon Boy in a heap of trouble.  Elsewhere on the Promethean giant we see further trevails of Legion leader, Phantom Girl, and her surviving colleagues, Invisible Kid and Polar Boy.  Though the true meaning of these events aren’t fully explained, they could mean another tragic end to a valiant hero.  Paul Levitz’s Legion is a testament to the title and its characters and a shining example of the possibilities of such a massive concept populated by round, dynamic characters.  Levitz’s is the best Legion of any run, and I will stand by that assertion.  However, DC is cancelling the series after August’s issue #23, so we are indeed looking at an endgame in the storytelling.  A total shame.
  • Supergirl #20 closed last issue on a very alarming conundrum.  Power-Girl, the Kara Zor-El of Earth-2 exiled to our reality, teams up with Supergirl, the Kara Zor-El native to our universe, and the two convalesce in the latter’s submarine sanctuary called . . . Sanctuary.  However, Sanctuary is comprised of Kryptonian A.I. and one of the key cultural heresies following the clone wars on Krypton is the existence of clones.  Well, both Kara’s are genetically identical meaning that Sanctuary intuits one of them to be be a clone.  Ironically, the one deemed to be a clone is in fact the true Kara to our reality, Supergirl.  Not to say that Power Girl isn’t as perturbed as her other self nor that she doesn’t do her utmost to rectify the situation.  This issue is basically a giant brawl between the two Maidens of Steel and the Kryptonian base they are trapped within.  The issue seems simple in this way, but in fact this conflict is quite complex, fitting within a larger drama.  Supergirl left Krypton as a teenager, unlike her cousin, Clark, who left as a baby, and as such laments a world and culture that were her life.  When she came to Earth she had  to cope with the loss of everything and everyone she knew and loved.  When H’el came on the scene she was tempted with the promise of having that life restored, only for it to come crashing down again in front of her.  Sanctuary was the last shred of Krypton that she had.  In this issue that one last piece of home turned on her and ruthlessly tried to kill her.  She is slowly losing her identity piecemeal, and a situation is developing wherein she will be forced to make a life among the humans and become a completely new woman.  I really feel pity for her, but am enthusiastic at the chance for her to become the incredible character she was pre-Reboot and develop the relationships she had in the past with other superheroes.  Michael Allan Nelson as well as his predecessors Mike Johnson and Frank Hannah have done a killer job writing her in complex, engaging ways that give her leeway to be a dumb teenager doing foolish things without demonizing her or making her any less compelling of a heroine.  Her hero’s journey has been and looks to continue to be something worth watching.

    Kryptonian Sunrise

    Kryptonian Sunrise

  • Vibe #4 begins with the armored intruder in the Ramon household introducing himself as Breacher, the first interdimensional traveller to come to Earth and be imprisoned by A.R.G.U.S.  He came to warn Earth of Darkseid’s impending invasion, but was ignored and incarcerated.  He also warned Cisco not to trust his employers as they are hiding something from him.  Breacher is unable to elaborate as he is pulled against his will to another dimesion, probably his place of origin.  In the mean time, Vibe is sent to catch the escaped inmate, codenamed Gypsy.  Like Kid Flash last issue he fights her but eventually comes to speak with her in private and learns she is not an interdimensional warmonger, as he had been briefed, but just an interdimensional wander who was imprisoned like Breacher.  Finally bucking the system, Cisco shakes his A.R.G.U.S handlers and agrees to help Gypsy get home.  In the process he runs afowl of A.R.G.U.S head Amanda Waller and opens a can of worms that could spell dire consequences of him and his future as a superhero.  Sterling Gates takes over for Geoff Johns and Andrew Kreisberg with great skill, maintaining the feel and excellence which began the series.
  • Wonder Woman #20 brings the family of Zeus closer to all-out conflict.  Artemis is dispatched to England to kill Zeus’ last born child, Zeke, and Wonder Woman yet again comes to the aid of her baby brother.  In the meantime, Lennox returns and escorts Hera and Zola in the attempt to get Zeke to safety.  However, Artemis and Apollo are not the only ones of Zeus’ children looking for the Last Born.  The First Born also knows that Zeke is the key to the throne of Olympus and looks to commune with his baby brother in the attempt to claim what he feels is his birthright.  Brian Azzarello certainly has a vision for this title and pushes onward setting a very sordid, complex gameboard upon which the Greek gods politick against one another.  Ares, or War as Azzarello likes to refer to him, comes off as a blood-soaked philosopher, and perhaps a way of Azzarello inserting himself into the title.  He does bear an uncanny resemblance to the Wonder Woman scribe.  Also revealed is the reason for Cassandra, the First Born’s attache’s, metal throat.  There is some messed up family politics behind that number.  I’ve fought with my sisters before, but I have never ripped their larynges out.  Yikes.  Azzarello with the help of artists Cliff Chiang, Tony Akins, and Goran Sudzuka have knocked this title out of the park.  I think what I like about the series thus far it that it is a completely different take on the saga of the Amazing Amazon than most fans have seen on a large scale.  It really roots her in mythic origins and divorces her from the contemporary DCU events, if only for the moment, to really give voice to the Greek drama that is her life.  Intriguing to be sure.

    Sibling Rivalry

    Sibling Rivalry

  • Sword of Sorcery #8 is finally here.  Though I hate to see this wonderful series come to a close, I am geared up for the incredible finale that has been so wonderfully built toward.  Eclipso has subdued both House Onyx and House Diamond, the two bloodlines that once gave him power.  They again fall under his sway.  It falls to the newly minted lord and ladies of House Amethyst, House Citrine and House Turquoise to stop him.  Amaya has a plan and it is a risky gambit that turns the very premise the first issue was based upon on its head.  Amaya’s ancestor, Lady Chandra, was the one who defeated the undefeatable Lord Kaala (Eclipso) when he first appeared in Nilaa. The question arises as to whether Amaya, young though she may be, can emulate her forebearer and put him down once more.  The course of this title has been circuitous and fraught with medieval political intrigue not unlike Game of Thrones.  It’s strange that this fact didn’t save it from cancellation, but the hope remains that somewhere down the road someone will resurrect it from the pivotal moment upon which it ends.  Writer Christy Marx can be proud of herself with this title and artist Aaron Lopresti presents his usual level of excellence in its depiction.  All nine issues of this series (zero issue included) are well worth reading.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Batgirl #20:  Drawn by Daniel Sampere & Carlos Rodriguez, Colored by Blond, Inked by Jonathan Glapion & Vincente Cifuentes

Nightwing #19: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund

Red Hood and the Outlaws #19:  Art by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino

Supergirl #19:  Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig

Wonder Woman #19: Art by Cliff Chiang & Goran Sudzuka, Colored by Matthew Wilson

Week 85 (April 17, 2013)

This week is a week of great flux in the DC Universe bringing change within and without the various series.  New writers come onboard, characters lives alter invariable, and in the case of Nightwing and Teen Titans, the artists play the swinging game swapping partners to try their hands at new characters and stories.  It’s truly an exciting time to be a DC fan, as these changes push the envelope of storytelling and innovation.  So here they are:

  • Justice League #19 introduces the two new members of the Justice League:  Rhonda Pineda (the new, female Atom) and Firestorm (whose series is being cancelled with May’s #20 issue).  Stuck alone in the Watchtower, waiting for their new teammates to initiate them into the League, they find themselves in a trial-by-fire situation.  On Earth, keeping them from meeting their newly recruited rookies, Batman goes to have a chat with Superman and Wonder Woman who have taken it upon themselves to insert themselves into a tense geopolitical situation.  Batman, though cold and calculating, understands that the world is growing distrustful of the League and violating political borders, no matter what the reason, does nothing but kick hornet nests and ruffle feathers.  I have to say that Geoff Johns really doesn’t portray Superman or Wonder Woman in a good light.  Wonder Woman is shown in a very fascist light and Superman, though opposed to her views, goes along with it because his girlfriend wants him to.  Compelling characterization, truly.  The issue also features a mysterious assailant breaking into the Batcave to steal a package Batman developed to take out Superman.  Considering the events of this issue, Johns’ version of the Man of Steel kind of deserves a few knocks to the head to maybe knock some sense into him.  In the backup feature, I may be forced to eat crow.  I’ve had very few good things to say about the SHAZAM backup or its version of Billy Batson, but after Johns reveals Black Adam’s history in ancient Kahndaq he seems to give validation to what he did with Billy, giving him the understanding to deal with Black Adam from a place of mutual understanding of why he is doing the things he is with the power the Wizard gave him.  Geoff Johns may be able to pull this one out of the toilet.  I say may.  Jury is still out.

    The Corruption of Power

    The Corruption of Power

  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #19 picks up right where Green Lantern #19 left off with the destruction of Sinestro’s homeworld, Korugar.  Of course when Kyle shows up with a white ring on his finger, Sinestro demands that he restore his planet and his people from the apocalypse the First Lantern unleashed.  Kyle remains uncertain and Sinestro resorts to violence.  While many would demonize him for this reaction it should be noted that Hal Jordan reacted similarly in the wake of his hometown, Coast City’s, destruction and as a result snapped Sinestro’s neck and murdered the Guardians and half the Green Lantern Corps.  Sinestro in comparison is behaving himself quite admirably.  Simon Baz, the newly minted GL of planet Earth comes on the scene and all three Lanterns attempt to do the impossible, taking turns with the white ring to bring back the decimated world.  Kyle tries and fails, the ring won’t even allow Sinestro to put it on, and Simon Baz tries to replicate his feat of will that brought his brother-in-law out of a coma, only to be refused by the ring.  For good or ill, the Life Force of the white energy deems that Korugar must remain destroyed.  Like the two previous GL titles this month, New Guardians #19 sets the stage for the massive Green Lantern #20 next month with the cast of players taking position.  Its going to be a blowout issue that will go down in history.  Mark my words.

    The Return of Fear

    The Return of Fear

  • Batwoman #19 is an extended period of adjustment.  After the conclusion of the Medusa mega-arc a lot has changed in the Batwoman title and as a result the characters are having to reacquaint themselves with one another and the situations that have arisen from the fallout of the first seventeen regular issues.  Maggie and Kate’s relationship has taken a dramatic turn following Kate’s revelation that she is in fact the Gotham city vigilante known as Batwoman.  After all, in the course of doing her duty as a policewoman Batwoman shot Maggie full of a concentrated Scarecrow fear toxin that continues to plague her with horrific nightmares.  It is also her job to apprehend such vigilantes.  So yeah, their engagement is rather complicated legally and emotionally.  Kate’s father, Jacob Kane, has his own crosses to bear in his dual life as the father of Batwoman  and loving husband with his wife Katherine’s discovery that her stepdaughter, Kate, and niece, Betty, moonlight as crimefighters with Jacob’s help.  Thus another strained relationship.  Jacob also lets slip that he may have a son.  However they rationalize it, the hinting is that this son is Director Bones of the D.E.O.  Considering that Bones is using Jacob as a bargaining chip to gain Batwoman’s compliance to D.E.O. operations and that he referred to Alice as “sister”, I’d say that there is some seriously oedipal stuff going on there.  And as for Cameron Chase, the hard edged D.E.O. agent begins to have a crisis of conscience and goes to her sister to find resolution to her conflicting drives.  Overall, J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman have made this title both action packed and introspectively thoughtful.  This continues to be one of the hallmark titles in DC’s current lineup.
  • DC Universe Presents #19 delivers its final presentation of the New DCU spinning out of the first four issues of Swords and Sorcery and bringing Beowulf into our present (his past) as summoned through a mystical artifact.  Preceding him is a shapeshifting beast called the “Puca” that runs amok with the intention of conquering the Age of Heroes and enslaving humanity.  Though logically it would change the timestream and corrupt events in her time, Beowulf concludes that the “sorceress” we’ve met under the relative name of “Grendel’s Mother” sent the Puca back to lure the legendary Geat from that time in order that she could conquer the Danelaw unimpeded.  Helping Beowulf find the Puca and get back to his own time is the beautiful archeaologist Dr. Gwendolyn Pierce.   This issue, though pretty straightforward and insubstantial by itself, was a pretty fun read for those that enjoy the original legend of Beowulf and the reinterpretation of it as done by this issue’s writer, Tony Bedard.  My hopes are that this concept will be revisited one day, because to me the Beowulf backup feature was superbly done and intriguing to read.  It may not have been popular, or at least not popular enough to continue in its own book, but I can dream.  The backup in Sword of Sorcery was drawn by Jesus Saiz, but this issue featured art by Javier Pina that was very soft, with lovely rounded lines, making it all the more enjoyable.  Man, I hope they continue on with this series . . .

    He's No Hero, He is BEOWULF!!!

    He’s No Hero, He is BEOWULF!!!

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #19 brings the next chapter in the off-the-rails storyline by writer Paul Levitz that re-establishes the defunct supervillain team, the “Fatal Five.”  So far, Tharok has plunged much of the United Planets into utter chaos by corrupting all technology powered by quark relays which accounts for 99.9% of it (I’m guessing on that figure, but its not far off), and in this issue Emerald Empress descends on Webber World, an artificial planet made entirely out of metal and machinery that runs ENTIRELY on quark relays.  That said, there is no way for the residents there to defend themselves against her psychotic assaults.  Cue  the entrance of Mon-El, the Legion’s Daxamite, and the Webber Worlders’ last hope.  Levitz holds nothing back in this storyline. The Fatal Five are back and they are playing for keeps.  Levitz began this arc with the death of a beloved Legionnaire and this issue finds the rest standing on infirm ground.  The sheer scope of the story is mind boggling, spanning the width of the United Planets and inflicting fear and death the likes of which we’ve not seen since Levitz’s “Great Darkness Saga” back in the early 1980’s.  Good to see that the master hasn’t lost his touch, nor his ability to spin quintessentially relevant Legion lore.  Starting this journey with him on issue #17 was his former partner from the aforementioned 1980’s opus, artist Keith Giffen.  Last issue and this one had art provided by Scott Kolins.  Kolins is a phenomenal artist, but put beside Giffen’s work it took some of the magic away.  Regardless, this is a series to read. Period.
  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #19 represents a paradigm shift on two levels.  Firstly, it should be noted that Scott Lobdell, writer extraordinaire who’s initiated some of the best titles in the New DCU (Teen Titans, Superman, Superboy, and this title), has moved on after a stellar run reinventing Jason Todd, Starfire, and Roy Harper, while simultaneously introducing incredible new concepts and characters like Essence, the All-Caste, the Untitled, the Thirteen Scions of Salvation, to name only a few.  The good news is that he is replaced by up-and-coming writer James Tynion IV, who’s work on the backup features in the Batman title as well as the series Talon have been incredible.  Joining him is artist Julius Gopez, whose art is as detailed as original series artist Kenneth Rocafort, but with its own unique style.  That said, the stage is set for an incredible issue as the new creative team descends into the quagmire left after the “Death of the Family” mega event felt throughout the Bat-family of books.  Jason Todd has been through a lot, and despite developing a hard exterior, weathered it pretty well.  With Lobdell’s revelation that the Joker was the architect of much of his misery, Jason is left in a very compromising situation.  Following that, he disappears and his friends, Starfire and Roy, try to find him to offer their support.  They track him to the Himalayas and while searching are set upon by two former acquaintances of Jason’s: Ducra and Essence.  Both transcendental forces, they attempt to influence the course of Roy and Koriand’r’s journey.   With his limited  knowledge gained from observing Jason’s meditation and use of Eastern rituals, Roy is able to weather his innermost demons, roused by Essence, to find the path to helping his friend.  However, after all of the pain and hardship to find their comrade, Jason throws a curve ball.  Tynion proves his understanding and mastery of comic writing here with some really poignant storytelling that doesn’t break stride from the tone and pace set by Lobdell.  Jason, Roy, and Starfire are very complex characters that are flawed beyond belief, but when written well are made all the better because of their imperfections.  Tynion writes them that way, and his partner in art renders them beautifully.  This series looks to be in good hands and I for one am breathing a sigh of relief that Red Hood and the Outlaws have found themselves in capable hands.

    The Color of Friendship

    The Color of Friendship

  • Nightwing #19 endures his own paradigm shift like Jason, his successor to the Robin title, did in the above book.  Though continuing to be written by Kyle Higgins, longtime artist Eddy Barrows has gone to Teen Titans and that series’ artist, Brett Booth, begins his run as artist on this book with this issue.  Coinciding with Booth’s jumping on point, Dick Grayson jumps ship from the tragedy that befell him in Gotham following “Death of the Family” and begins a new life in Chicago, searching for Tony Zucco.  Zucco is the supposedly deceased mobster that killed Dick’s parents, but also the father of his pseudo-girlfriend, Sonia Branch.  A complex situation to be sure, but one that Dick cannot overlook.  Though it dredges up harsh memories of the past, Nightwing has to seek out Zucco if he  ever hopes to attain closure on one of the seminal moments of his life.  The issue follows Dick settling into the Windy City and familiarizing himself with its underworld in order to get information on  Zucco.  It also introduces the “Prankster.”  Higgins imagines him almost as an anti-hero rather than the Joker-like Superman villain he was originally written as.  Here Prankster forces a corrupt millionaire to burn his money to prolong his survival when trapped in a room with wolves.  The chances of the man surviving the encounter are very decent, but he is forced to pay monetarily for the privilege.  Not supervillainous, but at the same time not heroic.  Higgins and Booth have created a very compelling first chapter for the new chapter in Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing’s life.

    Why So Serious?

    Why So Serious?

  • Supergirl #19 finds the Girl of Steel captive after a weakness overcomes her, probably due to her former kryptonite poisoning at the end of the “H’el on Earth” arc.  And as introduced last issue, Karen Starr, aka Power Girl  comes onto the scene, drawn by an unknown force to her Earth-1 self’s rescue.  In Worlds’ Finest she has gone out of her way to avoid meeting Kara, as she has no idea what it would mean meeting her alternate self.  Here she has no choice but to help “herself” and in the process writer Mike Johnson does something very interesting with the two halves of the same person.  When they meet and touch hands, instead of reality unraveling as quantum physicists project in such an unlikely event, they instead become of one mind, literally sharing their memories and thoughts.  After that instant they operate like a well oiled machine to put down a mutant freak that Lex Luthor sicced on them from his ultra-security prison, via neural implant.  Johnson does a really excellent job writing this story in a way that not only advances the title character, but the character of Power Girl from across the New DCU.  As is wont to happen with her, Power Girl’s costume is torn to shreds as she helps get the weakened Supergirl back to her sub-aquatic fortress of solitude, Sanctuary.  Within, Sanctuary ascertains her need and spins her a new costume from more durable Kryptonian fibers.  However, the costume it gives her deviates from the more PC, full body suit to the former skimpy unitard with the “convenient” hole in the chest that serves no other purpose than to display her cleavage.  Also, Mike Johnson makes ample use of this singular event of two genetically identical Karas  to play a very interesting scenario predicated from the taboo of cloning in Kyptonian culture.  Overall, a very interesting, thoughtful, action packed issue.

    Two Reflections of One Super Woman

    Two Reflections of One Super Woman

  • Vibe #3 takes Francisco Ramon further down the uncharted path his powers have placed him on.  Recruited by A.R.G.U.S and Amanda Waller for the Justice League of America, he is starstruck and wanting not only to make a difference, but find purpose following the horrific event that gave him his powers while simultaneously taking the life of his eldest brother.  From the perspective of such a kindhearted, idealistic young man like Cisco, that is completely understandable.  What he doesn’t know is that Waller put him on the JLA roster because he is theoretically the only being on the planet whose powers would allow him to neutralize the Flash’s speed abilities which come from an other dimensional force, which we know from The Flash to be the “Speed Force.”  So with that as the goal, how does one test that hypothesis?  If you want to fight an unknown creature the best way is to first try your hands against one of its young.  So Cisco is sent up against Kid Flash, aka Bart Allen, of Teen Titans fame.  Their meeting is morally mixed and hints very cryptically about the past (our future) of the younger speedster.  While Cisco begins by attacking Kid Flash, he is unable to continue on his belligerent path as Kid Flash does not behave in a way that engenders antagonism.  The events as I said before are very cryptic and morally ambiguous and begin the questioning of Vibe as to what his real purpose is and whether or not he can trust the people that are giving him orders.  I had my doubts about this book in the beginning.  Damn you, Geoff Johns, you got me!  Johns and cowriter Andrew Kreisberg started the series with the first two issues, but this third issue begins new series writer Sterling Gates’ tenure on title.  Gates is an incredible new voice in comics, so the title has gone from good hands to equally capable ones.
  • Wonder Woman #19 marks a nexus point in storytelling that promises a shift in the status quo.  The First Born has been systematically attacking those of his relatives that have been entrusted with his various implements of war.  This issue has him going up against Poseidon and fighting the god within his own leviathan belly.  Going up against his uncle, the two find themselves at an impasse and we see more of the twisted politics of the Greek gods coming into play as they make war and secret intrigues against one another.  However, for the First Born to achieve his ends he must cross paths with Zola’s infant baby, the last born of Zeus’s children.  To do that, of course he will have to go through Wonder Woman who has literally spent the entirety of this rebooted series protecting the baby from fetus to newborn.  As the title shifts to the Amazing Amazon and what she has been up to we see a major parting of ways.  Her Constantine-esque brother, Lennox, decides he is going depart the scene and in the midst of that departure, Orion runs afoul of Wonder Woman and leaves in disgust as well.  I’m not going to shed a tear on this departure, as Orion is a noble character and I feel that writer Brian Azzarello isn’t depicting him nearly as nobly as the son of Great Darkseid deserves.  Best to leave that to the more able pen of Scott Lobdell in Superman.  I will be interested to see how Wonder Woman fares against her eldest brother, the First Born, as he arrives in London in the very last panel of this issue.  Oh the anticipation . . .  She might yet regret the loss of an extra set of New God hands.  Oh well, pride cometh before the fall.
  • Sword of Sorcery #7 proves how incredible the main feature Amethyst is.  Last issue had the return of Eclipso, aka Lord Kaala, to the gemworld Nilaa.  After his return we are told that he was the result of a nightmarish blood marriage between House Diamond and House Onyx, hence his power totem, the black diamond.  With the powers of both houses gifted to him he was nearly unstoppable and almost brought ruin down upon all of Gem World.  But for Lady Chandra of House Amethyst he would have succeeded.  Now it lies with Chandra’s heirs, Lady Graciel, Mordiel, and of course Princess Amaya of the Amethyst clan to take him down once again.  They have their work cut out for them.  In the course of a single night, chronicled in this one issue, Kaala has murdered the head of House Citrine, retaken House Onyx from the noble Lady Akikra, and murdered the head of House Diamond taking its armies also under his power.  With one stroke he has regained all his strength and prestige from before his fall.  However, he still has many enemies including the fugitive Akikra who is as dangerous as a cornered dog, Prince Hadran of House Diamond, and of course the young lord and ladies of Houses Turquoise, Citrine, and Amethyst respectively.  The board is set for one hell of a showdown in Nilaa.  It will have to be, because sadly this title is being cancelled as of issue #8.  Next issue is the conclusion to all of it, and what a shame.  This was truly one of the best new series DC has put out.  It was fresh and unique from anything else that they had done, resurrecting a lesser known series and completely re-imagining it in a way that preserved the good, but innovated at the same time.  What a shame, indeed.  The backup feature Stalker on the other hand comes to its conclusion and good riddance.  As excellent as Amethyst is, Stalker is equally as terrible.  THAT is a shame, as the original series from the 70’s, only four issue unfortunately,written by the legendary Paul Levitz was incredibly good. It’s predecessor, Beowulf, which merited a special appearance in the above mentioned DC Universe Presents #19 was phenomenal.  I don’t even care to elaborate on how badly this Stalker series was dealt with.  Suffice it to say, this backup series did nothing to help the cancellation of this title.  It may have been a part of the anchor that dragged Sword of Sorcery below the water to its point of drowning.  Pity.  I will miss Amethyst  and Beowulf greatly.
    The Return of the King

    The Return of the King

     

  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #15 begins with the Superman Beyond feature.  Superman is rescued from the Trillians by the the bestial Mangals he liberated from enslavement upon his last visit to Trillia.  Whereas the Trillians view Superman as the terrorist who led to the fall of their society, the Mangals look upon him as a messianic figure.  This is made apparent when Superman sees them for the first time after all the intervening years.  When he liberated them they were small and helpless.  Now they are large and strong.  Apparently, the Trillians never let them grow to full maturity, but rather kept them young and worked them to premature death.  So once again, we the reader are shown a very divided society on Trillia between the over class and the bonded underclass.  Both sides want to eradicate the other, leaving a very morally ambiguous position for Superman.  Regardless of the heinous crimes of the Trillians as a culture, he cannot condone wholesale slaughter of all Trillians, yet at the same time he cannot stand idly by while the Trillians plan the same for their emancipated slaves.  This arc took a little while to reach maturity, but writer JT Krul has pulled this one out and made it into a very thought provoking storyline that raises questions about our own world and social systems.  Next up, in the Justice League Beyond Unlimited feature writer Derek Fridolfs begins a new arc with artist Ben Caldwell providing pencils.  In it the criminal organization known as the “Brain Trust” abducts children and places them in an elite prep school academy to brainwash them into becoming soldiers in an underground army.  The JLB sends their own agent, the “Golden Child”-like Green Lantern, Kai-Ro, in as a mole.  Once he is in the League tracks him to perhaps the most wholesome place in the entirety of  the DCU.  A place that makes Smallville look like a ghetto.  Fawcett City.  Ending in the middle of a fight, it is difficult to see where the story is going from here, but the concept of the “Brain Trust” is solid and I very much look forward to seeing where Fridolds goes in his script.  Lastly, the Batman Beyond feature fulfills a promise made over two years ago before the Reboot from the original Batman Beyond comic series.  Terry McGinnis’ best friend and confidante, Max Gibson, had attempted to infiltrate the network of cyber terrorists called “Undercloud” that were attacking Gotham’s infrastructure.  All of this without Terry’s knowledge.  Now she finds herself in the belly of the beast, integrally tied into Undercloud’s horrific plan to raze Neo Gotham and build it up from the ashes in their own image.  If she doesn’t comply, agents of Undercloud will kill those closest to her.  In the meantime, Terry is sent to a rock concert where a terrorist threat has been issued, although not by Undercloud.  Instead, its one of Batman’s old nemeses, Shreik.  Overall this issue was pretty quality in both storytelling and art.  For those that enjoyed the DC Animated Universe, this title stands as an ark to the legacy of many beloved TV shows.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Justice League #19:  Drawn by Ivan Reis, Colored by Rod Reis, Inked by Joe Prado, Oclair Albert, Jonathan Glapion

Green Lantern: New Guardians #19: Drawn by Andres Guinaldo, Colored by Wil Quintana, Inked by Raul Fernandez

DC Universe Presents #19:  Art by Javier Pina, Colored by Jason Wright

Red Hood and the Outlaws #19:  Art by Julius Gopez, Colored by Nei Ruffino

Supergirl #19:  Art by Mahmud Asrar, Colored by Dave McCaig

Nightwing #19: Drawn by Brett Booth, Colored by Andrew Dalhouse, Inked by Norm Rapmund

Sword of Sorcery #7:  Art by Aaron Lopresti, Colored by Hi-Fi

Week 81 (March 20, 2013)

This was a huge week, both in the number of comics I picked up and the quality.  First and foremost, Grant Morrison concludes his run on Action Comics with an oversized issue that promises to be one of the hallmarks of his comics career.  Batwoman enters into a new era after a seventeen issue mega story came to an EPIC end last month.  Legion of Super-Heroes has descended into unmitigated horror as of its preceding issue and moves into what promises to be the biggest story in LOSH history since writer Paul Levitz’s “Great Darkness Saga” plot from the early 80’s.  And who could forget three Bat-titles that follow in the wake of Damian Wayne’s tragic passing.  I am shaking just recounting the possibilities this week holds in store.  Let’s jump in:

  • Action Comics #18 concludes Grant Morrison’s MASSIVE opening arc of this flagship Superman title.  As with most things Morrison, I’m not entirely sure I got all of it.  It is steeped in 5th dimensional nonlinear geometry and what could vaguely be filed under the heading of quantum mechanics.  Superman is fighting Vyndktvx, and by extension Superdoom and the Anti-Superman Army.  It’s pretty technical, but insanely engaging to read.  Superman’s position seems impossible to extricate himself from, except when he realizes an inherent flaw in the logistics of Vyndktvx’s attack.  As he discerned on Mars when fending off the Multitude, the unfathomable numbers of this angelic hoard were merely a fifth dimensional projection of one being, Vyndktvx.  Likewise, by choosing to attack Superman at various points throughout his life, Vyndktvx is able to optimize the torture quotient of his assault upon the Man of Steel, but conversely traps himself in a relativistic conundrum hinging on Superman’s perception of the situation.  When Superman realizes that he’s been attacked at other points in his life he also realizes that due to the quantum physics of the 3-dimensional plane in which we exist he would have survived all the previous assaults by Vyndktvx and therefore would have gained de facto the knowledge of how to defeat the mad 5-D villain.  Grant Morrison and his dynamic duo of artists, Brad Walker and Rags Morales, really did a great job of tying together their entire run on the book and making it meaningful.  Lex Luthor made an appearance defending the Man of Steel and another antagonist from earlier in this series, Adam Blake, and his Neo-Sapien brotherhood come back to Earth and lend Superman a hand as well.  The people of Earth are promised immortality and eternal happiness if they shun Superman in his moment of greatest need, but humanity rallies behind their savior and grant him the key to victory.  The backup feature by Sholly Fisch was a little insubstantial, but in fairness his amazing backup feature in #17 was no doubt supposed to be the ending of the arc until Morrison got DC to extend his run by one issue to fully tell the grand finale as he envisioned it.  This one features kids in a Superman Museum in the 31st century featuring almost no dialogue and just seems propped up with toothpicks.  There was meaning behind it, but it still had the air of being rushed.  Despite that, this issue as well as the other eighteen issues of the series (remember there was a #0 issue in there, too) were amazing and a tribute to Grant Morrison’s genius.  A must read, whether in single issues or graphic novel format.

    Vyndktvx's 5-D Dilemma

    Vyndktvx’s 5-D Dilemma

  • Justice League #18 was a nerd spasm with the League auditioning new members and writer Geoff Johns pulling out all sorts of fan favorites along with some really obscure characters.  Zatanna, Firestorm, and Black Canary come up , but Johns also brings in Platinum of the Metal Men, Element Woman (female version of Metamorpho) which he’d messed around with in Flashpoint, Goldrush, and a female version of the Atom.  Other than exploring the need of a new member to the team and introducing the hint of a coming conflict, there wasn’t much point to this issue.  The Shazam backup feature had good art from Gary Frank, but vexing plot development: Billy Batson running away from responsibility, because he’s a punk.  If he were any other version of the character than this it could be legitimately reasoned as a kid afraid to fail, but it’s not.  It’s Geoff Johns’ bizarre attempt at rebooting an edgier Billy and his running away from conflict just comes off as him being a self interested brat.  This series just does not work for me, main feature and backup.
  • Justice League of America #2 brings about Geoff Johns’ second attempt at a team book.  The first issue was a really solid opening chapter that showed promise, albeit suffering slightly with its breakneck, abbreviated introductions to six lead characters.  This second issue continues that promise with a pretty substantial plot.  Its shorter in length, giving some of its page count to the Martian Manhunter backup feature.  There is some quality character development on Catwoman, as well as Steve Trevor.  The main villain seeking to create the “Secret Society of Super-Villains” from the end of Justice League #6 a little more than a year ago finally shows his face and seems to be a completely new character, or perhaps a drastically different take on an old one, because I do not recognize him at all.  All in all, a really enjoyable, edgy series.  I think that Geoff Johns is trying to be edgy with the two Justice League titles and that is where he fails with the main series.   When you have tertiary characters like Catwoman, Katana, Hawkman, etc, you can be edgier.  When you try that same thing with the main DCU characters, even to a degree with Batman, you just alienate them from the audience reading them.  Maybe that’s what Johns is going for, but that’s a really low bar to aim for and a really crappy status quo for readers to expect.  The Martian Manhunter backup was too edgy for me and I did not like it.  If J’onn J’onnz was to die at this point I wouldn’t care at all.  That is sad, because I always liked him.
    Kindred Spirits

    Kindred Spirits

     

  • Batwoman #18 is a new beginning for the character, but also a reaffirmation of what her life has become.  Medusa and her kidnapping of dozens of Gotham children was the plot that pervaded the first seventeen issues of the title, but with last issue that has been laid to rest.  However, in fighting this titanic battle for the innocents of her city, Batwoman had to make a devils deal with the D.E.O. and become their leashed super-agent in order to complete her mission with impunity and keep her father out of prison for his outfitting of her with Army equipment.  This latter aspect of her life was overshadowed by the pressing quest to find and subdue Medusa before the children came to harm.  With the mission accomplished she is becoming aware of the shackles she’s got herself tethered with.  As she plays her role in this issue taking down Mr. Freeze to obtain some of his freeze tech for the D.E.O. she runs afoul of Batman and confuses her father, cousin Betty (her sidekick Hawkfire), and the Batman as to what her motives are.  After defeating Medusa, Batwoman proposed to her alter-ego Kate Kane’s girlfriend, Capt. Maggie Sawyer.  This issue picks up with Maggie looking for a new place for the two of them, completely overstepping any reaction from the Gotham policewoman as to the revelation that her lover was the vigilante she had been hunting.  Probably the right decision by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman, but I still would have been interested to see what the initial conversation was before her acceptance of this rather unorthodox situation.  This series continues to be amazing, although this particular episode was a little less exciting after the high octane ride the past couple of months have given us with the conclusion of the “Medusa” mega-arc.  Also Trevor McCarthy’s art pales in comparison to Williams’.  I feel they do him a disservice, as he is a good artist, by pairing his artwork next to Williams’.
  • Green Lantern: The New Guardians #18 brings Volthoom’s wrath upon Carol Ferris, Saint Walker, and Larfleeze.  To accomplish this, series artist Aaron Kuder has been replaced with three artists for the three different sequences in the narrative.  The Carol Ferris segment is drawn by Hendry Prasetyo and features Carol living a life without love.  She’s completely ignored her obligations to her father and their family company Ferris Aircraft, following her dream to become a fighter pilot.  Though this sounds ideal for her, with Volthoom’s altered timeline it is anything but.  Larfleeze’s segment is drawn by Jim Calafiore and features the paragon of greed first with his family that he has desperately wanted to find for ages and then as a Blue Lantern.  Both times, he barely gets into the altered reality before his inherent greed overpowers his senses and collapses the concept in on itself.  Saint Walker doesn’t so much live a life without hope, so much as lives a life without loss, this time around having gotten a green power ring saving his planet before his family died in the quest for the blue one.  He also is unable to follow the reality through as in his heart he knows it is not true.  Like Kyle last issue, each of the other “New Guardians” prove too powerful in their spirit for Volthoom to truly get the better of forcing Volthoom to seek out someone he knows he can manipulate: Atrocitus.  That may be a lead in to next week’s Red Lanterns issue, because Atrocitus hasn’t been a New Guardian for awhile.  This issue was really well written and really cut to the heart of these three incredible lanterns.
  • Supergirl #18 presents a major turning point for the Maiden of Steel.  She has been alienated upon waking up on a planet whose language and culture she is unfamiliar with.  Things looked up for awhile as she made a friend in Siobhan McDougal, aka Silver Banshee, but then with the introduction of H’el onto the scene she was given the hope of returning to her homeworld and being reunited with her family.  With last month’s issue of Supergirl as well as the conclusion of Superman #18 it is now an intractable fact: Supergirl can never go home again.  That is sadly pointed out in a moment where she emerges from a solar satellite where she is convalescing from green kryptonite poisoning.  After exiting the solar chamber she begins to say “I want to go home,” but stops and corrects herself, “I just want to get back to Earth.”  Her expression in this moment is truly heartrending.  In the meantime, Lex Luthor plots against her from his state-of-the-art, super-prison, via neural implant that projects his consciousness to an offsite computer.  Also a strange connection between Kara Zor-El and Karen Starr, the Kara Zor-El of Earth 2, is teased at.  This issue featured a guest writer, Frank Hannah, and he picks up and continues the series in intriguing new directions.  Coming off of a massive event like “H’el on Earth” can be dangerous, providing a jumping off point for readers of certain series if they don’t sink a hook right away.  This issue sunk a hook.  What’s to come has great promise.

    You C Never Go Home Again

    You Can Never Go Home Again

  • Legion of Super-Heroes #18 continues down the cataclysmic road that issue #17 began.  The United Planets are still reeling from the assault of Tharok against the technological advances of the 31st century and the death toll mounts.  The last issue focused on Legionnaires stranded on Rimbor and the Promethean Giants.  This one goes back to both locations and the plight upon them, but also adds Earth and the Legion’s headquarters in Metropolis to the stage.  Mon-El, Shadow Lass, Lightning Lass, Shrinking Violet, and Cosmic Boy leave Earth for Webber World, an artificial planet that is nothing but technology to try and establish the devastation there.  Brainiac 5, Dream Girl, Star Man, Chemical Kid, and Element Lad attempt to get a cruiser prepped for their own departure from Earth. Ultraboy, Glorith, and Chameleon Boy attempt to escape Rimbor using Glorith’s magic, and Phantom Girl, Invisible Kid, and Polar Boy continue to try and regroup after their crash landing on the fabled Promethean giant.  This arc has all the hallmarks of another cosmic epic on the scale of writers Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen’s 1980’s opus, “The Great Darkness Saga.”   This issue lost a little steam, but issue #17 had two advantages.  Firstly, it had the element of surprise, following a very calm “nothing is happening” issue directly into a sucker punch in the readers’ collective gut with literally all Hell breaking loose.  Secondly, it had Keith Giffen’s Kirby-esque artwork magnifying the already nuts plotline into a tour-de-force thrill ride.  Scott Kolins and Tom Derenick do a good job, but like McCarthy above in the Batwoman review, they have the misfortune of standing in the very long shadow of Giffen.  I am pumped to read further into this amazing arc which promises to be a historic one.
  • DC Universe Presents #18 is a one shot like last month’s issue that gives spotlight to Jason Todd’s fellow outlaws.  Issue #17 was a focus on Roy Harper that really laid bare the kind of person he is as well as his hidden strengths and virtues.  This month we are shown Princess Koriand’r, aka Starfire.  Born into royalty, her sister sacrificed her to slave traders to buy peace for the realm.  This issue tells about her time as a slave on a ship that is larger than the Earth.  Inside are entire civilizations that the slavers raid and sell when needs be.  This issue wasn’t large in the action department, but did present an interesting study into the mindset of the enslaved.  How sometimes those that aren’t free are so weighed down by their bondage that they do not want to be free because of the terror it inspires in their comfortable minds.  This issue was once again written by Joe Keatinge, who wrote the  Arsenal issue last month.  The art is done by newcomer Federico Dallocchio.  The writing is thought provoking, if not action packed, and the artwork is very lovely, representing the beautiful heroine well.  Not a bad issue at all.
  • Nightwing #18 hits Dick Grayson while he’s down.  Last issue had Nightwing mourning the loss of his friends and the circus he grew up in and was trying to save.  It had Dick struggling with his own sense of denial, telling those that still cared about him that he was fine when he was really anything but, festering pain and anger deep in his belly until the pressure burst.  All the while Damian, the most socially inept, insensitive member of the Bat Family, followed him to intervene when the inevitable sword dropped.  Damian stopped him from stepping over the line and told him exactly what he needed to hear to ease his battered and bruised soul.  This issue opens with Damian dead and the old wounds he’d seemingly healed torn open and wrenched deeper by the loss of this “little brother” who knew him possibly better than even Batman.  What it comes down to is that he is losing his past.  The circus he grew up in was terrorized and some of the older members like the clown, James Clark, and his former girlfriend, Raya, brutally murdered by the Joker, the circus folds, and then Damian, who had served as his Robin when he donned the cape and cowl of Batman, dies suddenly saving Gotham.  Then Batman comes to him with information that a criminal scavenger that sells crime artifacts in underground auctions has plundered Haly’s and put John Grayson’s trapeze outfit up for sale.  The Collector last showed up in Scott Snyder’s Detective Comics run, pre-Reboot, running afoul of Dick Grayson’s Batman.  Now its a rematch in his Nightwing identity.  Though he goes in angry, the outcome of the confrontation ironically heals him and proves the truth in something Damian told Dick before he died.  But of course Dick can’t be happy for long.  When deciding to finally meet with Sonia Branch (nee Zucco), daughter of gangster that killed his parents, she reveals something about her dad that once again shows how Dick’s past is continually eroding beneath him, leaving him very little closure.  Kyle Higgins is KILLING IT!  His Nightwing run is seminal.  I may have liked other runs as much as this one, but I’m not sure.  All I know is that this is a really emotionally driven, introspective, thought provoking title that continually amazes.  Juan Jose Ryp yet again provides equally stunning interior art, really drawing out the latent potential in every heartbreaking frame.  This two issue interim arc between “Death of the Family” and the next major story arc of the title has been phenomenal on every imaginable level.

    Painful Memories

    Painful Memories

  • Red Hood and the Outlaws #18 following the shocking ending of last issue vis-a-vis the booby trapped helmet that the Joker whipped together, Jason lays in a medically induced coma, facing his greatest enemies.  With the revelation a few months prior that the Joker for all intents and purposes created him by selecting him and guiding him towards the Batman, the Clown Prince of Crime is the first of Jason’s adversaries.  However, the real adversary he fights is himself.  A mob of Bat family members, past and present, as well as his former allies converge on him at once and Batman is the one who pulls him out.  This is writer Scott Lobdell’s last issue on the series and he might be taking his character from his complete alienation of his past as Robin and bringing him back into the fold, or perhaps he’s just tempering the fiery character of the failed Robin, but in either event, he presents a single heartwarming tale for the jaded anti-hero.  Despite all he has done and the pain he has put them through, Bruce and Alfred love him and do everything in their power to help him come back to life, literally and metaphorically.  Tyler Kirkham does fantastic guest art on the title, really bringing out the twisted nature of Jason’s psyche.  Well worth picking up.RHATO18
  • Vibe #2 was a half and half issue.  Half of the issue played catch up and was boring for those who have read Justice League of America #1 & 2.  Recounting all of the snippets of Cisco Ramon’s appearances in the first two issues of the overarching JLA title, it does inform those who didn’t read the aforementioned title and gave context to those that did, but still, didn’t hit just right.  The other half of it hit a cord with DC fans that know their obscure characters.  A transdimensional invader comes through to deliver a note to an emissary.  It hands it to Vibe right before an A.R.G.U.S. agent zaps him.  The note was meant for the character, Gypsy, whose father apparently is a potentate in another reality.  A far departure from her previous back story, she is exactly like Vibe.  Few know who she is so few care if they do a MASSIVE overhaul.  What is clear is that A.R.G.U.S. likes to kidnap the daughters of powerful men.  Darkseid’s daughter is their prisoner.  This unknown king’s daughter is also their prisoner.  They better pray that Gypsy’s homeworld doesn’t form an alliance with Apokalips, because they are literally playing with fire and poking some VERY big dogs with an annoyingly sharp stick.  I want to believe Geoff Johns knows what he’s doing, but he is quitting the only good book he is currently writing.  So I put my faith in cowriter, Andrew Kreisberg.
  • Wonder Woman #18 concluded a maxi-arc in the odyssey of Zola’s baby.  In Wonder Woman #1 writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang introduced us to Zola, a human woman who bore Zeus’s newest bastard.  The Amazing Amazon has gone on a long journey to protect the young woman from the various gods of Olympus and upon its birth, to recover the baby from those same, meddlesome gods.  That story finds its conclusion a year and a half later.  However, it continues the tale of Zeus’s first born child, exiled and awoken millennia later with rage and vengeance on his mind.  Those same gods who tried to strong arm and kidnap an innocent child, now have to contend with a vengeful demigod fueled by distilled hatred.  Also Azzarello has re-introduced us to the New Gods of New Genesis, represented primarily by Orion, foster son of High Father and (perhaps still unbeknownst to him) the eldest son of Darkseid.  Azzarello keeps this series afloat, sometimes peaking on the wave of awesome, and other times lulling in the trough of mediocre.  This concluding issue of that first major crisis features art by alternating artist Tony Akins and Cliff Chiang, as well as a third penciller, Goran Sudzuka.  This one was pretty good and a must read if you have been one of the faithful, reading it from the inaugural issue.
  • Sword of Sorcery #6 accomplished quite a bit.  It fully introduced us to the new lord of House Turquoise after the death of Princess Amaya of House Amethyst’s grandfather, Lord Firojha.  It also introduces another newly minted House head following another shift in power.  Most importantly to the DCU in general is yet another reason why I want to see John Constantine strung up by his toes.  He singlehandedly brings the harbinger of utter ruin upon Princess Amaya’s home, but what’s worse, he uses her to invite it in.  In fairness to Constantine, however, the doom that he has sent to Nilaa was born in the Gemworld and exiled to Earth thousands of years ago.  Still, its a pretty low thing to do, considering how Amaya pulled his bacon out of the fire in the Justice League Dark Annual.  The Stalker backup feature isn’t even worth talking about.  Just horrible.  Get this issue for the main feature and then close it up after the conclusion.
  • Batman Beyond Unlimited #14 begins with an interim chapter in Batman Beyond following the conclusion of the hellacious “10,000 Clowns” arc and the coming one called “Undercloud.”  Though its a one shot, it is monumental if one followed the animated “Batman Beyond” series.  In the series Terry McGinnis constantly had to bail on his long suffering girlfriend, Dana Tan, and play it off like he was doing errands for his boss, the aged Bruce Wayne.  After the events of “10,000 Clowns” and her brother Doug unleashing hell on earth upon Gotham in the form of 10,000 suicidal Jokerz from around the world Dana is put in a situation where everything clicks.  When Doug attempted to kill their father in the ICU, Bruce Wayne, 80+ years old and dying himself from liver failure, got out of his hospital bed and fought the twenty something maniac, allowing the Tans to get Mr. Tan to safety.  When Doug took his sister as a hostage, Batman referred to her by name.  The math is right there and Dana FINALLY figures it out and a new era in Terry’s tenure as Batman begins.  The issue is also good, because Dana was often a set piece on the show and more of a plot device than an actual character.  This issue was her issue.  It was narrated by her, gave her history with an intimate look into her traumatic upbringing with a psychotic for an older brother who despite his evil nature she still loves, and tells us what gives her peace.  Adam Beechen makes this series come alive for those of us who mourned the TV series’ cancellation.  Although, I do have one beef.  In the “Justice League Unlimited” episode entitled “Epilogue” we are told that Terry discovered that Bruce Wayne was his biological father when they did the liver transplant and found out him and Bruce were identical tissue types.  In this issue the liver came from someone else.  You messed up, Mr. Beechen, but I’ll forgive you because the rest of this issue and those preceding it were truly mind blowing.  Also, kudos to Peter Nguyen who takes over for regular Batman Beyond artist Norm Breyfogle.  The art is truly beautiful, underscoring the moving narratives within.  Unfortunately, the Superman Beyond plot is leaving me whelmed.  I thought there was going to be some moral ambiguity with the Trillians claiming Superman destroyed their world, but really they are just an overclass that resents having their property taken away.  Superman freed their slaves and now they are angry.  Boo-effing-Hoo.   On to the next.  The Justice League Beyond Unlimited  story finishes off in this third installment with a new Flash, this time a young African American woman named Danica (last name to come soon, I am sure).  This arc was over relatively quickly when compared with the previous Kobra arc that spanned almost an entire year’s worth of issues.  However, despite the brevity and the quick take down of what could have been a truly formidable foe on the level of most of the greats this issue had its poignant moments that really speak to the superhero genre, why they do what they do, and gives a comprehensive intro to the next scion of the Speed Force.  Perhaps the best moment came after Superman personally extended an invitation to Dani to join the JLB.  After accepting his gracious offer, she challenged him to a foot race, which every speedster since Barry Allen have done.  Derek Fridolfs write this one as well as providing inks for Jorge Corona’s pencils.  Truly a great end to a relatively short arc.  This issue was phenomenal overall.BatmanBeyondUnlimited14

This crop was amazing, though statistically they had more shots at it with the increased number of entries.  Several of these are must gets to comic fans in general, regardless of genre.

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to any of these images and give credit to those whose work they are.

Illustration Credits:

Action Comics #18: Drawn by Rags Morales & Brad Walker, Colored by Brad Anderson, Inked byCam Smith & Andrew Hennessy

Justice League #2:  Art by David Finch, Colored by Sonia Oback

Supergirl #18:  Drawn by Robson Rocha, Colored by dave McCaig, Inked by Oclair Albert, Julio Ferreira & Mariah Benes

Nightwing #18: Drawn by Juan Jose Ryp, Colored by Bret Smith, Inked by Roger Bonet & Juan Albarran

Red Hood and the Outlaws #18:  Art by Tyler Kirkham, Colored by Arif Prianto

Batman Beyond Unlimted #14: Drawn by Peter Nguyen, Colored by Andrew Elder, Inked by Craig Yeung